The owner of a gutter cleaning and painting company has been found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 5 years in prison after a 17-year-old employee died when he fell from a ladder.
The court heard that the employee, who had fallen off a ladder just weeks before the fatal incident, but had escaped injury, was painting the eaves of a house when he fell 6.7m. The teenager had been working by himself at the property, with no one to foot the ladder which instead was resting on blocks.
The company owner had previously pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act following further offences at other properties, but denied manslaughter and breaching the Work at Height Regulations in this case. He told the court that he was not responsible for the teenager’s death as there was no working contract between them.
During the case the Judge stated that the company owner ignored safety concerns when they were raised, would not buy scaffolding, did not fulfil his duty as an employer and was reckless when it came to working at height. "Your attitude throughout the period covered by the case was arrogant, cavalier and utterly reckless and in consequence a young man with his whole life in front of him paid the ultimate price and he paid it because you were in very severe breach of a duty that you owed to him to take care of his safety."
He went on to say that "You thought that you could escape responsibility for this by insisting all the people that worked for you were self-employed. That was a brazen attempt to evade responsibility. It was clearly not the case that any of these people were self-employed. They were all employed by you."
This tragic case highlights the importance of making sure you only employ competent and reputable companies to carry out work at height. Working from ladders is high risk which is why anyone employing someone to work at height from ladders should only use professional organisations which can demonstrate an understanding of the risks associated with this type of work and have the correct equipment to ensure the task is carried out safely.
Safe Fascia, Soffit and Gutter Work
Ladder Safety - A Step in the Right Direction