MEL Health and Safety Consultants

Director Jailed for Manslaughter

Fatal Fall through a Skylight leads to Prison Sentence

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned all employers to ensure they protect their workers’ lives after the jailing of a company director for manslaughter.


Mr Sharaz Butt, director of Alcon Construction Ltd, Norwich, was prosecuted by Norfolk police, with assistance from the HSE, over an incident which took place on 31 January 2008.


Mr Wu Zhu Weng was working for Alcon Construction on the refurbishment of a building in Trowse, Norwich, when he fell 12 feet through a skylight, suffering fatal injuries.


Mr Butt was sentenced to 12 months in jail at Norwich Crown Court after pleading guilty to the manslaughter of Wu Zhu Weng.


He also received a five-year disqualification from acting as a company director after pleading guilty to breaching s.37 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 which stipulates that where an offence committed by a body corporate is proved to be attributable to any neglect on the part of a director (or similar officer), the director as well as the body corporate will be guilty of that offence.


Alcon Construction was given a nominal fine of £10. However, in his sentencing remarks, Judge Peter Jacobs made clear the fine would have been tens of thousands of pounds had the company been in a position to pay such an amount.


The judge said Mr Butt had shown a “cynical disregard” for his workers, including Mr Weng, by employing them illegally and failing to ensure their safety.


Following the case, HSE Inspector Peter Nickerson said, "Mr Weng’s tragic death could have been prevented had his employer followed basic health and safety procedures. The skylight Mr Weng was working near had not been properly covered and was a dangerous place to work".