MEL Health and Safety Consultants

Jail for Boss after Teenage Worker Falls to his Death

Trainee Roofer falls through a Skylight

A 17-year-old worker who had been employed by a roofing contractor for only a week fell to his death through a fragile skylight in Cwmbran, South Wales, Swansea Crown Court heard on 6 May.

Roy Clark, from Bridgend, the owner of North Eastern Roofing, was jailed for 10 months after pleading guilty to a charge of manslaughter by failing in his duty of care to the young man, Daniel Dennis.

The court was told that on 8 April 2003, North Eastern Roofing had been carrying out roofing work on an extension to a steel-framed building being constructed in a retail park in Cwmbran. The parents of Daniel Dennis knew Clark, and had asked him if he could provide work for their son.

On the day of the incident, the young man had been sent on to the roof of a shop to fetch timber that had been left behind after completion of some work. Although the existing building had fragile rooflights, they had not been identified as posing a risk. Daniel Dennis fell nine metres through one of the rooflights into the shop below, sustaining serious internal injuries, from which he later died in hospital.

In mitigation, Clark said he had pleaded guilty on the first day of the trial. He had no previous convictions, nor were there any other deaths or accidents involving his company.

However, Prohibition Notices had previously been served on Clark in 1997 and 1999 with regard to unsafe roof work, including working near fragile rooflights, and he had been given advice by the HSE before.

“The accident happened because the risk had not been assessed, and there was no barrier or guardrail preventing people gaining access on to the existing roof,” Dean Baker, the HSE inspector who investigated the case, told SHP. “The situation was further compounded by the scaffolding on the side of the building, which was primarily for side cladding, but had been used by workers to access the roof.”

The inspector commented: “This tragic case demonstrates the need for employers to take serious steps to ensure anyone working at height is properly trained, and given appropriate equipment to do their job safely.

“These measures had not been taken in this case, and Daniel Dennis was never given any training or induction for working at height. Falls from height very often result in serious injury and death. They cost businesses and society money and ultimately can cost lives.”

IOSH president, Ray Hurst, said he believed the case was a stark reminder for employers of the need to remember the vulnerability of young workers when they first start work. He added: “Young people are often thought of as cheap labour and left to just get on with work for which they have no experience. A proper induction is essential for each location in which a young person is working, and there should always be appropriate supervision.

“In the case of Daniel Dennis, the lack of training and supervision was a combination that proved fatal.”

The British Safety Council called for young people to be trained in workplace skills as early as possible. Said chief executive, Brian Nimick: “As well as the onus on bosses to do everything they can to protect their workers, there is a very real and pressing need for our young people to get awareness training to protect themselves at work, and this should happen in schools.”

Clark was also ordered to pay full costs of £18,000.