Infobite 265: Roofing boss gets suspended sentence after worker death

A roofing boss has received a suspended sentence of eight weeks’ imprisonment after a subcontractor died from a fall off a roof.

The Wakefield-based company was contracted to replace more than 300 skylights on a fragile warehouse roof in Barnsley in 2016.

Sheffield Magistrates Court heard that a subcontractor was working on site for the roofing company when he fell 12 metres through one of the skylights. The father of two later died, the court heard.

According to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), The company did not provide an appropriate risk assessment, method statement or sufficient roof-protection measures for the work to be carried out safely.

“Even though reasonably practicable precautions were available, poor planning had resulted in a risk assessment and method statement that was not suitable and sufficient,” the HSE found. It added that the work was “poorly supervised” and carried out unsafely.

The sole director of the firm was responsible for drawing up the risk assessments and regularly visited the site to inspect progress. But his failure to provide suitable and sufficient fall-protection measures meant he was responsible for “a personal neglect for safety”, the HSE investigation found.

The director pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was sentenced to eight weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to do 15 days of rehabilitation activity.

His firm, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £20,000. It will also pay costs of £12,500.

The HSE inspector  said the accident could “so easily have been avoided” had correct control measures and safe working practices been carried out. “Companies and directors should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards,” he added.

Falls from height are the biggest cause of death on construction sites in England, Scotland and Wales, causing a quarter of fatalities in the year to March 2021, according to HSE statistics. Data for April 2021 to December 2021 revealed that 41 per cent of deaths in the sector were caused by a fall from height.

The construction sector remains the most dangerous industry in England, Scotland and Wales, accounting for a quarter of all workplace fatalities in the year to March 2022.

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