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BOSS AND FOREMAN CONVICTED OF MANSLAUGHTER

Safety standards allowed to fall despite HSE enforcement action

A company director and site foreman have been found guilty of manslaughter in connection with the death of a workman in Brighton in October 2014.

Michael Holland, 69, company director of Kings Road, Brighton, and Grant Oakes, 46, a site foreman of Elm Drive, Hove, had both denied a charge each of gross negligence manslaughter in connection with the death of 55-year-old carpenter David Clark. Mr Clark died one month after falling through a gap in the first floor of a building on which he was working.

Lewes Crown Court heard that Mr Clark was airlifted to St George’s Hospital, Tooting, in a critical condition after falling 4.5m to the ground. A month later he died at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton.

The two men and Cherrywood Investments Ltd also admitted or were found guilty of offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The defendants will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on 21 July 2017.

Mr Clark’s finance Beverley Clark said:

“Nothing will bring my Dave back. Nothing will heal my broken heart or make my life worth living again. The only good that can come out of all this, is if it stops even one single company from cutting corners to earn a few extra pounds in profit. It should make individual people stop and think, “No I’m not taking that risk, not even if it means losing my job” because you can get another job. You cannot get another life.”

Both men failed stop work in unsafe conditions

Detective Inspector Mick Jones said:

“Dave Clark went to work that fateful morning in 2014 and his partner Beverley had every right to expect him to return. However the unsafe conditions on that building site on which numerous men were working, particularly those working at height, meant that it wasn’t to be.

Michael Holland was the sole director of Cherrywood Investments Ltd, now trading as Threadneedle Estates Ltd, and Grant Oakes was the site foreman. The Health and Safety Executive had stopped any work being done on the same site a year earlier due to the unsafe conditions, highlighting the working at height breaches they were committing among numerous others.

These breaches were addressed and Oakes subsequently attended a site management training course where he was instructed among other things about working at height and how to do so safely. It did not take long for these improved standards to drop again. Mr Clark in attempting to cross a void on the first floor stepped on a scaffolding board which then snapped causing him to fall to the ground. He suffered head injuries and a broken neck and he was airlifted to hospital where he remained immobile for a number of weeks. This immobility led to Mr Clark developing DVT and he subsequently died.

The court heard that Holland made numerous visits to the site and was able to see the unsafe conditions but did not act to stop those working on it. Oakes as site foreman also let work continue without adopting any of the numerous safety measures that could have been adopted that would have prevented Mr Clark falling or at the very least lessened the impact of any fall. The jury quite rightly found this to be grossly negligent.

I hope that these convictions send a strong message to those within the construction industry that the safety of those working on sites should be of paramount importance. Where this is not the case, the Health and Safety Executive and police will tenaciously pursue them and bring them to justice.”

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