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CLIENT AND OTHERS IN COURT OVER SITE FATALITY

Roofworker slipped to his death under inadequate edge protection

A construction client, contractor, director and roofworker have been sentenced after a worker fell around 7m to his death on a construction project in Staffordshire in December 2010.

Stafford Crown Court heard (2 Dec) heard that experienced roof worker Phillip Lonergan was working on construction of a new warehouse on land in Fauld, Tutbury.

Mr Lonergan was standing on installed roof sheeting at the edge of the roof. He was facing up the roof pitch with his back to the roof edge when he fell or slipped and slipped from the roof through the gap (>50cm) between the bottom guard rail and laid roofsheet. He died in hospital the same day from head injuries.

HSE investigators found that the edge protection was provided by Nottinghamshire-based Albion Tower and Scaffold Ltd. The company director, Lee Cotterill (who had no formal scaffolding qualifications) controlled of the design, planning and construction of the edge protection and personally “signed it off” as being safe.

The court heard that the edge protection comprised two scaffolding guardrails running around the roof edge attached to vertical tubes. The relevant British Standard permits a minimum of two guardrails when the angle of the roof is 10 degrees or less. The pitch of the roof in question was 20 degrees.

Client unaware of CDM 2007 duty

Roofer Peter Allum was approached by E2 to install the roof panels and he engaged a number of roofers the work. He was supplied with the roof plans showing the 20-degree angle in October 2010 but failed to deal with the risks posed by the inadequate edge protection.

E2 Developments Ltd was found to be unaware of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the client duty to notify HSE of the work and appoint a competent project co-ordinator (CDM-C)  and principal contractor (PC). The offences involved:

  • E2 Developments Ltd – of Burton-on-Trent pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 14(1), 14(2) and 22 of the Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2007 and was fined a total of £66,000 with costs of £13,200.
  • Peter Allum – aged 41, of Burton-on-Trent, admitted breaching Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £1,500 with £1,500 costs.
  • Lee Cotterill – aged 53, of Aston-on-Trent pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was sentenced to three months in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £4,000.
  • Albion Tower and Scaffold (East Midlands) Ltd – Watnall, Nottinghamshire, was fined £53,000 and ordered to pay £15,500 in costs after pleading guilty to the same offence.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said:

“Each defendant failed to ensure Mr Lonergan and other roofers could work safely. In each case their failure was a significant cause of Mr Lonergan’s death.

The temporary edge protection should have had a third guard rail to reduce the space for a person to slide through. It should also have had netting around the edge, or toe boards. No such safety measures were in place. The edge protection was therefore inadequate to reduce the risk of serious harm – something that should have been obvious to both Albion and its director Lee Cotterill.

E2 was provided with architects’ plans showing the roof was at a 20-degree pitch but failed to plan, manage or monitor the work in order to eliminate the risk of a fall. One of the directors had never heard of the regulations the company should have been working to. It was therefore very difficult for the company to discharge its duties under those Regulations if directors were ignorant of them.

Peter Allum was aware of the obvious risk of harm posed by the inadequate rails, but did nothing about it. As an experienced roofer he could, and should, have tackled the issue.

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