HSE now has a policy of ‘looking beyond the garden gate’ in construction accidents. in this particular case the directors of a roofing business, and also the director of the business which contracted this work out to them, have seen custodial sentences (see our earlier blog for another example of this type of prosecution).
HSE has made plain its intention to look further up the supply chain and drive home the message that contractors are responsible for decisions they make when subcontracting work. The duty to ensure that the subcontractor is competent and adequately resourced for safety is becoming a recurring theme and is one which deserves further consideration for any construction based business.
The cases which will begin to filter through which occurred after the CDM 2015 changes will likely see this intensify with HSE able to look even further up the supply chain to target clients and designers more effectively in the coming years.
Three company bosses have been jailed following the death of 25-year-old father of one, Benjamin Edge, who fell from a roof he was working on, without safety equipment and in windy conditions.
Following the incident safety failings were covered up, a new risk assessment was written and an employee was “sent home to collect harnesses to make it look like the accident was Mr Edge’s fault, because he had not worn safety equipment” it was reported.
The fatal incident
On 10 December 2014, Mr Edge, fell from the roof of a metal structure he was helping to dismantle in Ramsbottom, Bury.
He died hours later at Salford Royal Hospital, after suffering catastrophic head injuries.
At the time of the fall, Mr Edge was working for SR and RJ Brown and was working on a site run by Marshalls Mono.
A joint investigation by the Greater Manchester Police alongside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) looked into the circumstances surrounding Mr Edge’s death.
It was heard in court how MA Excavations Ltd, contracted out the work to brothers Christopher and Robert ‘James’ Brown, directors at SR and RJ Brown Limited.
Mark Aspin, director at MA Excavations Ltd said he believed the Browns were ‘competent’ and could complete the job safely, but the court heard he did not check their qualifications.
Manchester Evening News reported that Robert ‘James’ Brown composed a ‘grossly inadequate’ risk assessment before the job which he did not show to anyone.
After Mr Edge was rushed to hospital he then typed up another risk assessment, which should have been done beforehand.
Peter Heap, 34, who had been working alongside Mr Edge was asked by Christopher Brown, 25, to go home and collect harnesses to make it look like the accident was Mr Edge’s fault, because he had not worn safety equipment.
“Foolishly, weakly and criminally – as he now realises – Peter Heap went along with what he was told to do,” Mr Justice Openshaw said.
The Browns maintained that the harnesses had been there before the incident, although they did admit falsifying the risk assessment.
During sentencing, addressing Christopher Brown and Robert ‘James’ Brown Ben’s mother said that when she saw her son’s coffin at the funeral she wanted to drag those responsible to the coffin so they could see what they had done.
She said: “Ben’s death was totally avoidable. He had everything to live for, but his future was stolen from him.”
Mrs Edge added: “Benjamin Edge, known affectionately as Ben, was my son and his father, Tim’s, son. We are so proud of Ben, not just what he achieved, but who he was.”
- SR and RJ Brown Limited, of which brothers Christopher and Robert Brown are directors, was fined £300,000 at Manchester Crown Court after admitting corporate manslaughter.
- Christopher Brown and Robert Brown pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and two counts of health and safety breaches. They were jailed for 20 months. A count of manslaughter for the brothers is to lie on file.
- Mark Aspin, 37, was sentenced to a year in jail after admitting health and safety offences.
- MA Excavations Ltd, of Garden Street, Ramsbottom, which contracted out the work – was fined £75,000 after pleading guilty to two health and safety breaches.
- Employee Peter Heap, 34, was spared jail after he followed orders to bring safety harnesses to the site after his colleague had fallen to try to conceal what had happened. His four-month sentence for perverting the course of justice, which he had admitted, was suspended for two years.
Ben’s family have issued a tribute to their son, who leaves behind a three year-old daughter, a loving mother and father, twin brother, and partner.
“Ben was taken from us in tragic circumstances aged only 25, and our family and all of his friends are totally grief stricken by his loss.
“We miss him so very, very much.
“He was a loving, caring son, twin brother and family man. Ben was a much loved partner and father and will always remain a huge part of everyone’s lives”.