Journalist, SHP Online

April 12, 2016

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Man jailed for six years following fatal fall

One man has been jailed for six years and another for eight months after two incidents on the same day left one man dead and another with life-changing injuries, after falls from a roof they were repairing.

Allan Thomson was jailed for six years and fined £400,000 after he and his company Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd were found guilty of safety breaches. Michael Smith and his company C. Smith and Sons (Rochdale) Ltd, were also found guilty. Mr Smith was jailed for eight months and  fined £90,000.

It was heard in court how, on 21 January 2014, despite a near miss at height the previous day, four men began dismantling the roof of a building, which was made up of steel corrugated sheets with interspersed plastic skylights, which had deteriorated over time and had subsequently been covered with corrugated steel sheets in a bid to repair the damage.

At just after 9am, one of the group – a 47-year-old man – fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist.

Ambulance and police attended, but the incident was deemed to be an accident and once advice was passed regarding the company’s obligations to inform the Health and Safety Executive, officers left the scene.

Despite their colleague suffering horrific injuries, the men were ordered to return to the roof just hours later and at 4pm Scott Harrower fell through a skylight to the concrete below. He suffered catastrophic head injuries and died as a result.

Mr Harrower had himself been involved in the near miss the previous day after stepping on a skylight. On that occasion he managed to prevent himself from falling, but despite the near miss the men had returned to carry out their work the next day.

The court heard how C. Smith and Sons had won a contract to demolish the Harvey’s and Carpetright buildings in Heaton Norris, Stockport in 2014.

It was originally planned that plant machinery would be used to remotely bring down the structure, a method that would have entailed minimum risk to those workmen tasked with the demolition.

However, between winning the contract and the work actually being carried out, the decision was taken by Mr Smith that the building should instead be dismantled piece by piece, meaning workmen would be required to work at height to remove the roof sheets prior to the structure being unbolted.

Smith and Sons then subcontracted the job of dismantling the roof to Allan Thompson’s company, Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd, which was based in Scotland.

This led to the work being carried out by the men at height, leading to the death of one man “in tragically preventable circumstances”.

The sentences were as follows:

  • Allan Thomson, of Woodburn Crescent, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter and both he and his company Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd were found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and for breaching regulations 4 and 7 of the Work at Height Regulations at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square, on 3 February 2016. Allan Thompson was jailed was six years, fined £400,000 and was ordered to pay £55,000 court costs.
  • Michael Smith of Lightowlers Lane, Rochdale and his company C. Smith and Sons (Rochdale) Ltd, were found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and for breaching both the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations. He was jailed for eight months, fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 court costs.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales said: “First and foremost, our condolences go to the families of Scott and his colleague, who were the victims of both companies’ criminal negligence and who died in tragically preventable circumstances.

“It is clear from the evidence that both Smith and Thomson saw an opportunity to make a quick profit without any thought for the workers they sent on to the roof, and as a direct result of that greed Scott died and another man suffered life-changing injuries.

“Smith and Thomson’s remorse did not then stretch to admitting their guilt, as both tried to hide behind their companies and refused to plead guilty to the charges levelled against them personally.

“Thankfully, the jury saw through their attempts and both now can face justice for the decisions that they made, decisions that have robbed one family of a loving partner, father, and son, and another of a man’s ability to live a life untainted by severe physical injury.”

Scott Harrower’s mother Irene added: “Scott was a nice guy who didn’t deserve to go in such tragic circumstances.  He will be missed everyday by his whole family”.

Scott’s partner Jane and his two children, Justin and Robyn, said: “The last two years have been devastating, for us knowing that Scott’s death could have been prevented is unforgivable.

“The effect it has had on us as, especially his two children, is not something that any family should have to go through.

“Scott is and always will be greatly missed by us all.”

After the case, which was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, HSE Inspector Sandra Tomlinson, said: “Falls from height, and in particular falls involving fragile roofs, are one of the main causes of work-related deaths in Britain. The risks are therefore well-known and documented, as is the guidance on how to reduce these risks.

“The roof dismantling works were not properly planned or supervised and adequate precautions, such as netting, were not put in place.

“This led to two men falling in separate incidents and resulted in one man suffering life-changing injuries as well as the dreadful tragedy of Mr Harrower’s death.”

 

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Simon Bowens

Tragic coincidence beyond belief, interesting to know who ” deemed the incident to be an accident ” and what else was said or who was notified.

James
I have read quite a lot about this accident, However it is the first time I have read the details of what the actual problem was. Precautions that would normally be taken with Asbestos roofing. Perhaps wider reporting of the cause would help prevent this being repeated in the future. One would also have to ask why experts in the field are not using the proper safety equipment automatically on a daily basis. With too much thought going into the paperwork trail rather than the actual job. The size of the penalty and jail term will certainly make people sit… Read more »
James
Emma

Where does it say in that article that this is the same company? There is no suggestion that these are linked

Brian

Curious there was no suggestion in the report that the police or ambulance service could have reported the fist incident to the HSE.

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[…] with the new rules. Note the severity of the sentence. This is what will happen more in future. SHP news article and Construction.co.uk website news […]

Edward Handley
With the benefit of hindsight, the Police should have notified the HSE immediately following the first accident. It is just jot good enough to assume the employer will make a report under RIDDOR – all the evidence shows that under reporting is a serious issue. Reporting under RIDDOR can also cause a delay which gives a Company time to remove or hide evidence and to get the paperwork right before the HSE get to them. It seems unbelievable that the Police deemed the incident to be an “accident” as they are not experts on H&S. In the event of a… Read more »
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