Unbelievable, tragic and wholly avoidable

falls from heightA six year jail sentence under gross negligence manslaughter, a fine of £400,000 and £55,000 costs hit Allan Thomson, director of demolition firm, Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd. The firm who subcontracted this work to them, C Smith & Sons (Rochdale) Ltd, were also fined for breaching both the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations, Director Michael Smith was jailed for eight months, fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 court costs.

Two of Mr Thomson’s workers fell from the roof they were dismantling on the same day, one suffered life changing injuries and the second person died from major head trauma.

The chain of events which led to these tragic accidents are scarcely believable, read on below to find out more.

Originally C Smith & Sons (Rochdale) Ltd were contracted to carry out demolition of some buildings in Stockport in 2014, this work was then subcontracted to Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

A method known as remote demolition was selected which meant minimal risk to staff as it was to be carried out using machinery.  However, after winning the control Mr Smith decided to dismantle the building piece by piece requiring work at height to remove roofing sheets  prior to the structure being dismantled – this work being subcontracted to Allan Thompson of Building & Dismantling Contractors Ltd.

Repeated failures

In January four men employed by Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd travelled to Stockport to carry out the task of taking the roof apart piece by piece including a 47-year-old man who would sustain life-changing injuries and 42-year-old Scott Harrower, who died as a result of the negligence of Thomson.

The roof comprised corrugated steel sheets and plastic skylights. The skylights had deteriorated over time and had subsequently been covered with corrugated steel sheets in a bid to repair this damage.

On 20 January 2014, Mr Harrower stepped on a skylight but somehow managed to prevent himself falling 30ft to the concrete floor below.  Despite this very serious “near miss” the men returned to continue their work the next day.

At just after 9am on Tuesday 21 January 2014, one of the group fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist.

Ambulance and police attended the scene which was “deemed to be an accident” and after advice was given regarding the obligation to inform HSE the police officers left the scene.

Near miss turns into fatal fall

Despite their colleague suffering these horrific injuries, the workmen men were ordered to return to the roof just hours later. At 4pm Scott Harrower, the same person who had almost fallen the previous day, fell through another skylight to the concrete below suffering catastrophic head injuries which led to his death.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales commented:

“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.”

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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