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CLIENT HELD TO ACCOUNT FOR CONTRACTOR FATALITY

Contractor, client and director fined over fragile rooflight death

Major cardboard box manufacturer, Garthwest Ltd and contractor, Cavill Property Maintenance Ltd, have been prosecuted for joint safety failings relating to the death of a building maintenance worker. Shaun Cavill, a director of Cavill, was also prosecuted.

Father of five, Kevin Jackson, fell more 8m through a fragile rooflight whilst gutter cleaning at the Garside factory on Humberside in October 2009.  Hull Crown Court heard (18 December) Kevin was cleaning the factory roof gutters when his colleague heard a crash and turned to see Kevin fall through a fragile rooflight to the concrete floor below.

The men were not provided with safety equipment or protection measures to reduce the risk of falling. HSE prohibited further work at height on the site and subsequent investigation found a series of serious safety failings:

  • Boards or staging etc – not used to work from to prevent workers stepping on to a fragile surface;
  • ‘Crash decks’ etc - not provided to reduce the distance of any fall;
  • Risk assessment – requirements were not carried out;
  • Edge protection – not provided on the roof;
  • Instructions – not provided on how to carry out the work safely;

In addition, neither man had been trained to work safely at height.

Client failed to assess competence, check and supervise work

Cavill Property Maintenance Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3(1) and was fined £65,000. Garthwest Ltd was fined £50,000 with costs of £19,300 after also admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act. Shaun Cavill, pleaded guilty to breaching the same Act by virtue of his negligence as an individual director. He was fined £25,000.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Mark Welsh said:

“All three parties in this case have contributed to the tragic loss of life of a loving husband, father and grandfather. It was an incident that was wholly preventable if obvious and sensible controls and safeguards had been put in place.

Cavill Property Maintenance Ltd should have had safe working practices and provided safety equipment to ensure the workers were not put at risk, but the firm neglected its duty of care. Shaun Cavill took on the contract for the work and it was his responsibility to ensure his company put safety measures in place.

Garthwest Ltd, where the incident happened, should have followed their own safety procedures but did not do so. They failed to assess the competency of the company they hired and didn’t ask for their risk assessment. Nor did they supervise the work or carry out any checks on what safety equipment was being used – which was none.

Unsafe work at height on fragile roofs is a regular occurrence within many industries and is a major cause of death and serious injury. HSE will not hesitate to bring legal action against companies and individuals who fall so dangerously below accepted safety standards.”

Comment

Work on or near fragile materials continues to be a prime cause of fall from height deaths in the construction and building maintenance sectors.

HSE has recently published updated guidance explaining the actions which clients should take to control the risk and comply with their CDM 2007 and HSW Act Section 3 duties.

We understand that HSE will be undertaking a UK wide intiative in 2013 to promote and enforce this new guidance.

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