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CLIENT PROSECUTION FOLLOWS FRAGILE ROOF FALL

Client failed to manage project and check competence of contractors

A London-based client for construction work has been prosecuted and fined after the company failed regarding management arrangements and competence under CDM 20007.

The case follows an incident in which a labourer fell through a fragile fibre cement roof and severely injured his back.

Client faced magistrates alongside contractor 

Perryman Properties Ltd (PPL) of London N15 pleaded guilty to breaching client duties under CDM Regulations 4(1)(a) and 9(1)(a) regarding the competence of the contractor appointed and client arrangements for managing the project.

The Court heard that in April 2008, PPL employed Demetrius Michael to refurbish a building that had been used as manufacturing premises.

He was contracted to partition the building into some 30 separate units. Mr Michael susequently engaged a self-employed builder to assist with the work.

Demetrius Michael of Enfield pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3 and was ordered to pay over £10k in fines and prosecution costs whilst Perryman Properties Ltd was ordered pay almost £12k.

Asbestos cement sheet failed

On 19 May 2008 the builder was inspecting part of the roof when he stepped onto a section of asbestos cement sheeting and fell over 6m to the concrete floor, suffering two fractured vertebrae.

PPL had failed to appoint a CDM co-ordinator and a principal contractor. Checks on the competence of people engaged were not carried out and suitable management arrangements for the project had not been made.

Demetrius Michael failed to ensure that the builder engaged was not exposed to risks, including those of falling from height through a fragile roof.

Clients are accountable for impact on safety

HSE Inspector Paul Hems said after the case “Clients have one of the biggest influences over the way a project is run and because of this, they are accountable for the impact their approach has on the health and safety of those working on the project.

Perryman Properties Ltd’s failure to discharge its client duties contributed to the creation of an unsafe working environment at the site.

“As the person in control of the site, Demetrius Michael failed to ensure that work was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a manner. As a result of this Mr Acay fell through a fragile roof and suffered serious injuries to his lower spine and his hands.”

Comment: The injured workman was most fortunate to survive this fall through a fragile roof. Falls through fragile roofs cause 7-10 deaths each year in the UK.

The client should be relieved at this miraculous escape. If the workman had died both client and contractor may have been facing investigation under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (CMCH).

At the conclusion of the investigation the Police and Crown Prosecution Service may have considered that the CDM 2007 failures regarding client management arrangements and contractor competence justified bringing charges of Corporate Manslaughter.

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