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CLIENT FINED £250K AND PRISON TERM FOR CONTRACTOR

Gloves were only ‘safety equipment’ provided for fragile roofwork

Construction client Aramex (UK) Ltd and roofing contractor Gary Edwards have been prosecuted following the death of a workman who fell through a warehouse roof in Manchester in 2011.

Michael Sweet, aged 48, from Stockport, was cleaning out the guttering at Aramex premises when he stepped on a fragile panel and fell to the concrete floor below.

Manchester Crown Court heard that Aramex engaged Mr Edwards to repair a roof leak and that he had carried out work for the company on a previous occasion. He arrived on site with Mr Sweet and they were asked to fix the leak and clean out the guttering.

Mr Sweet fell through the warehouse roof when he stepped on a clear roof panel, designed to let light into the warehouse. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Mr Edwards admitted that the only safety equipment he had provided for cleaning the warehouse roof had been a pair of gloves. Safety measures could have included: boards over the fragile roof panels, harnesses, scaffolding or use of a cherry picker. Mr Edwards failed to implement any of these measures and did not carry out a risk assessment for the work.

Aramex ignored their own health and safety guidelines and failed to supervise the work or assess how it would be carried out, despite knowing the roof was fragile.

Failures to assess risk and monitoring what was being done

Aramex (UK) Ltd and Gary Edwards each pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Aramex, of Heywood Distribution Park in Heywood, was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000.

Gary Edwards, 55, of Gatley, received a four-month prison sentence suspended for one year, which means he will be sent to prison if he commits another offence in the next year.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Betley said:

“Michael Sweet sadly lost his life because neither Aramex nor Gary Edwards put enough thought into his safety while working on a fragile warehouse roof.

Mr Edwards had carried out work at the warehouse on several previous occasions and so knew the roof could be dangerous, but he failed to take any action to keep Michael safe.

Aramex was also aware of the risks but simply left the two men to it, rather than carrying out its own assessment of how the work would be carried out and monitoring what was being done.

Companies and individuals have a legal duty to ensure the safety of workers they employ or who carry out work for them. If Aramex and Mr Edwards had taken their responsibilities seriously then Michael’s life could have been saved.”

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