Fines and imprisonment in tragic health and safety breach

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In tragic health and safety breach case before the Manchester Crown Court, two companies have been fined £490,000 for health and safety breaches and two company directors imprisoned for gross negligence manslaughter following the death and serious injury of two employees.

In 2014 C Smith and Sons won a contract to demolish a building in Stockport. Initially the demolition was going to be completed using plan machinery which would minimise the risk to the workforce involved in the demolition. However, C Smith and Sons changed its mind and decided that it should be dismantled piece by piece, a cheaper method, which required the roof sheets being removed before the structure could be unbolted. The job of dismantling the roof was subcontracted to Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

Only a few days after work by Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd began, one of the workers accidentally stepped through the skylight and nearly fell 30 feet to the concrete floor below. Despite the near miss, the workers returned the next day to continue with the job. However, during that day another worker fell through the skylight to the concrete floor, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist. Whilst the emergency services attended to the site including the police and the company was told to inform the Health and Safety Executive, no investigation was instigated. The workers were ordered to continue with the work and during that same afternoon another worker fell through the skylight to his death.

In Manchester Crown Court, Building and Dismantling Contractors, the subcontractor carrying out the work were found guilty of breaching their obligations as an employer to their employees in ensuring their health and safety so far as reasonably practicable (section 2, Health and Safety at Work Act). The employer was also found to have breached the Work at Height Regulations (regulation 4 and 7). The employer was fined £400, 000, whilst the director Allan Thompson was jailed for 6 years.

Similarly, the contractor C Smith and Sons Ltd was also found guilty of offences under section 2, Health and Safety Act and for breaching the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations. The company was fined £90,000, while one of its directors was jailed for 8 months.

This case demonstrates that serious health and safety failings in construction projects can have deadly consequences for employees, as well as corporate and personal liability. Employers whether in their capacity as contractors or subcontractors need to consider their obligations carefully whether under the Health and Safety at Work Act, CDM Regulations, Work at Height Regulations or other regulatory standards and act accordingly. Failure to do so can have tragic consequences for employees as in this case, a substantial impact on the business whether through the fines imposed, reputational damage, future ability to bid for public contracts and personal liability for directors.

Forbes Solicitors regularly advice clients regarding their obligations under the CDM Regulations, Health and Safety at Work Act etc., as well as provide representation for companies and/or directors in relation to regulatory breaches. If you would like further information, please contact Daniel Milnes.

Nat Avdiu

About Nat Avdiu

Nat Avdiu is a Paralegal in the Contracts and Projects team at Forbes Solicitors. Nat provides updates for clients on a range of issues including: governance, data protection and freedom of information, procurement and charity law.
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