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CONTRACTOR PLEADED GUILTY TO MANSLAUGHTER

Remorse saves defendant from immediate prison sentence

Michael Turner, aged 49, of Colchester has been sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, after admitting the charge of gross negligence manslaughter regarding the death of workman Robert Bird.

Inner London Crown Court heard (November 20) that his employee and friend of 15 years, fell 30 feet to his death whilst carrying out work on a barn roof near Newmarket, Suffolk.

Following a joint investigation by Cambridgeshire police and HSE Mr Turner was arrested on June 2 2014 on suspicion of gross negligent manslaughter. When questioned he answered ‘no comment’ to all questions put before him in interview.

Witnesses revealed that Mr Turner experienced a ‘near miss’  on the same roof days before the death of Mr Bird. Turner had stepped on a panel, heard a crack before moving away and seeing the roof panel cave in.

The HSE Specialist Inspector asked to report on the investigation stated that:

“M T Construction developed a system of work which relied on using new roof sheets as a safe working platform but this was fundamentally flawed in that the unsafe practice of ‘walking the bolts’ was routinely adopted while laying out and attaching the fixing bars.

A competent roofing contractor would not be carrying out the work adopting the system of work adopted by M T Construction, and a competent roofing supervisor would not have put his workforce in such a vulnerable position.

The standard of safety management exhibited fell far below the standard expected of a competent roofing contractor and was woefully inadequate.”

The report concluded Mr Bird either slipped, tripped or walked from a newly fixed sheet onto a fragile sheet, and as a result of the lack of a barrier, fell to his death.

Suspended prison term plus 240 hours unpaid work

Upon sentencing, the judge accepted the depth of remorse expressed by Mr Turner and suspended his sentence for two years after stating he felt an immediate prison sentence was not appropriate in this case. Turner must also complete 240 hours of unpaid work as part of his sentence.

Detective Chief Inspector Jon McAdam, from Cambridgeshire Constabulary, said:

“This truly tragic event just goes to show how important it is to have appropriate health and safety measures in place. Turner has already paid the ultimate price of losing one of his employees, and friends; that will be with him forever. My thoughts are with both families at this sad time.”

Linda Christian-Booth, who led the Health and Safety Executive team, 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.

Adequate precautions were not taken in this case, such as netting and edge protection, which has led to the dreadful tragedy of Mr Bird falling 30 feet to his death.”

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