A roofer was fined £4,000 for precariously balancing a ladder on top of his van while painting a shop in Southampton.

A passer by spotted George Nicholls working eight metres (26ft) above the ground in St Mary's Road with a labourer providing the footing.

After being tipped off by the public he was photographed risking himself and others when he fully-extended the ladder from the roof of his van.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated and prosecuted Nicholls for safety failings alongside the company that paid him to undertake the work.

The 25-year-old admitted breaching health and safety laws at Southampton magistrates' court after parking his van over a bus stop on a busy road and failing to erect safe scaffolding.

After the hearing Health and Safety Executive Inspector Frank Flannery said: “The photographic evidence speaks for itself in terms of the risks created. Anyone can see the system of work is plain wrong, so why a supposedly competent roofer chose to work in this way is anyone's guess.

“George Nicholls blatantly and recklessly risked harming himself and others, and he did so on behalf of Maintenance 24-7 Ltd, who had clear duties of their own to ensure the work at height was properly planned, managed and executed in a safe manner.

“The standards of both parties fell far below those required, and I would like to thank the concerned member of the public who initially brought the matter to the council's attention.”

Ladders were specified as the chosen method of work, but after the finding the façade was higher than the ladder he had with him, the roofer opted to improvise.

The court was told this system was fraught with risk. Not only could Mr Nicholls or his labourer have fallen, but there was no form of segregation to prevent vehicles or pedestrians from passing under or near the work area. So they could have been struck by falling equipment or materials.

HSE established that the van in question was also parked over a bus stop on a busy road with double yellow lines - indicating a further lack of regard or awareness.

Magistrates heard a pavement licence should have been obtained to create a properly segregated safe-working area, and that scaffolding or a mobile elevated work platform would have provided a safer option for accessing the façade.

George Nicholls, of Hogs Pudding Lane, Newdigate, Surrey, was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £666 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching health and safety rules.

Maintenance 24-7 Ltd, of King's Lynn, Norfolk, who sub-contracted the work to Nicholls's firm, Laser Roofing London and South East Roofing Limited, in March also admitted safety breaches and were fined £10,000 with £784 costs.