This week saw another tragic story being reported in the press following a fall through fragile materials. Yet again it's being reported that work was being carried out without any safety measures and fall protection. As a result one man has been jailed for 6 years and fined £400,000 and another jailed for 8 months and fined £90,000 after 2 separate falls from height on a roof they were working on left one man dead and another with life changing injuries.
The court heard that despite a near miss at height the previous day, workers began dismantling the roof of a building. The roof was made from corrugated sheets and featured plastic skylights, which had been covered with corrugated steel sheets over time as they became damaged. One of the workers fell through a fragile skylight in the morning and suffered severe injury. The ambulance and police attended the incident and decided it was an accident so informed the company of its duty to inform the HSE, and then left.
Hours later workers were ordered to return to work on the roof. Unfortunately, one of the workers fell through another skylight to the concrete floor below, and suffered fatal head injuries.
During the subsequent investigation it transpired that the worker had been involved in a near miss the day before after stepping on a skylight.
Machinery was originally going to be used to bring dismantle the building. This would have presented minimum risk to the workers, however it was later decided that the building should be dismantled manually. As a result the work was subcontracted to a building and dismantling firm.
The owner of this company was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter and was jailed for 6 years. Both he and his company were found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and for breaching regulations 4 and 7 of the Work at Height Regulations.
The owner of the company originally contracted to demolish the building and his company were found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and for breaching both the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations. The owner was jailed for 8 months, fined £90,000 with costs of £45,000.
The Grim Reality
The Detective Chief Inspector who was involved with the case commented that it was clear both men “saw an opportunity to make a quick profit without any thought for the workers they sent on to the roof” and that as a direct result of that greed a worker died and another man suffered life-changing injuries. He then went on to state that both men’s remorse “did not then stretch to admitting their guilt, as both tried to hide behind their companies and refused to plead guilty to the charges levelled against them personally. Thankfully, the jury saw through their attempts and both now can face justice for the decisions that they made, decisions that have robbed one family of a loving partner, father, and son, and another of a man’s ability to live a life untainted by severe physical injury.”
After the case, HSE Inspector Sandra Tomlinson, said: “Falls from height, and in particular falls involving fragile roofs, are one of the main causes of work-related deaths in Britain. The risks are therefore well-known and documented, as is the guidance on how to reduce these risks. The roof dismantling works were not properly planned or supervised and adequate precautions, such as netting, were not put in place.” She concluded by stating that this lead to two men falling in separate incidents and resulted in one man suffering life-changing injuries and another losing his life.