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February 3, 2009

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MD jailed for manslaughter of 20-year-old roof worker

The managing director of a roofing firm has been sentenced to 12 months

in prison for manslaughter, after one of his employees fell through

a skylight to his death.

Colin Cooper, owner of IC Roofing Ltd, appeared at Hove Crown Court on
27 January to answer charges brought in a joint prosecution by the HSE
and Sussex Police.

The court heard that, on 29 November 2005, the deceased, Darren Hoofe,
20, and two colleagues were replacing roof lights at industrial
premises on the Bellbrook Industrial Estate in Uckfield, East Sussex.
The roof was extremely fragile as it was made from asbestos cement.
While carrying out repairs, Mr Hoofe fell through one of the skylights
to the ground, approximately 25 metres below. He sustained head
injuries from which he died in hospital the following day.

HSE inspector, Amanda Huff, told SHP that no safety measures were in
place to protect the men from falling. She said: “The men were only
supplied with two crawling boards, which are designed to spread weight
when working on roofs. They actually would have needed about 11 of
these boards to carry out the operation safely. There was no netting
set up underneath the roof to catch them if they fell through, and only
two harnesses had been supplied, but there was no evidence that these
had been used.”

The HSE issued the firm with a Prohibition Notice ordering it to cease
work on the site until a safe system of work was in operation. Mr
Cooper had received a similar notice in 2000 for failing to use a safe
number of crawling boards when carrying out repairs on an asbestos
cement roof.

Colin Cooper denied breaching section 37 of the HSWA 1974 but, after an
eight-hour deliberation, the jury found him guilty of manslaughter and
sentenced him to a year in prison, with the possibility of being
released on licence after six months. He pleaded guilty on behalf of IC
Roofing for breaching sections 2(1) and 37 of the HSWA 1974, for which
he was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs. He was also
banned from being director of a company for three years.

In mitigation, Cooper said he was not on site at the time of the
accident but had provided his employees with some safety equipment. He
fully complied with the terms of the Prohibition Notice and finished
the job once safety nets had been put in place. 

Inspector Huff said: “The tragedy of Darren Hoofe’s death is that it
was easily preventable. Colin Cooper had previously received warnings
from the HSE and if these warnings had been heeded, Mr Hoofe would not
have been killed.

“This accident could have been avoided if the work had been adequately
planned and the correct safety equipment provided. The staff should
also have been given adequate training so that they could carry out the
work safely.”

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