Huge fine for construction firm following contractor’s death05 October 2012
A building firm has been ordered to pay £548,000 in fines and costs after a man fell through a roof while working on the construction of a shopping centre in North Wales.
Mold Crown Court heard that Watkin Jones & Son Ltd was the principal contractor during the building of the Menai Centre in Bangor. Thomas Whitmarsh, 21 was working for a company that was sub-contracted to carry out roofwork at the site.
On 29 May 2007, Mr Whitmarsh was fitting a rubber membrane to a flat concrete roof when he fell nearly six metres through an unguarded opening in the roof to the floor below, sustaining serious head injuries.
Mr Whitmarsh spent several months in hospital and was making a gradual recovery. However, the brain injury he suffered exposed him to a much higher degree of infection and, after contracting acute meningitis, he died on 17 December 2009.
Evidence presented to the court included a pathologist’s findings’ which suggested that there was more than an 80-per-cent chance that the injuries from the fall contributed to his death.
HSE inspector Chris Wilcox told SHP that there had been adequate edge protection around the void, but this had been removed and not put back in place until after the incident. He said: “Poor coordination between the principal and the roofing contractors on this particular part of the site led to the edge protection being removed from around the roof opening without alternative safeguards in place.
“Falls from height are an alarmingly common cause of death and serious injury in construction. All too often, straightforward practical precautions are not considered and workers are put needlessly at risk. Poor management of risk in this industry is unacceptable and HSE will take strong action when necessary.
“This tragic case should remind all contractors that work at height must be managed effectively and adequate safeguards should be in place to prevent falls.” Watkin Jones & Son appeared in court yesterday (4 October) and was found guilty of breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £450,000 and ordered to pay £98,000 in costs.
In mitigation, the firm said it takes health and safety seriously but accepts failings took place in relation to this incident. Following the incident, it modified its procedures to ensure that work is safely handed over to contractors.
Join SHP Online
- ✔ Download free reports and research
- ✔ Access free Digital magazine
- ✔ Email newsletter briefings