February 25, 2015

Building firm fined £220,000 over fall death

A building company has been fined a total of £220,000 and its owner sentenced to a suspended jail term over the death of an employee who fell through a roof.

Peter Mawson Ltd admitted corporate manslaughter and a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure the safety of employees last December. At Preston Crown Court on 3 February, the company was fined £200,000 for the corporate manslaughter offence and £20,000 for the Health and Safety at Work Act breach.

Company owner Peter Mawson pleaded guilty to a breach of the same Act and was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, to advertise what happened on the company’s website and in a local newspaper and to pay costs of £31,504.77.

The incident happened on 25 October 2011 at West Cumberland Farmers Ltd, Lindal, Ulverston, when 42-year-old Jason Pennington, who had been working on the roof, fell around 7.6 metres through a skylight onto a concrete floor. He died in hospital a short time later.

DS Paul Yates for Cumbria Constabulary said: “I hope that this case serves as a warning to other businesses in Cumbria that health and safety measures are extremely important, and if not implemented correctly can result in devastating consequences.”

Chris Hatton, investigating inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said: “Jason tragically lost his life because the company that employed him did nothing to make sure he was safe while he worked on a fragile roof.”

“Peter Mawson knew the clear panels on the roof weren’t safe to walk on but neither he nor his company provided any equipment to prevent workers falling to their death. If scaffolding or netting had been fitted under the fragile panels, or covers had been fitted over them, then Jason would still be here today.”

This tragic case illustrates the potentially devastating consequences of employers failing to take health and safety seriously. A proactive approach to health and safety not only reduces the risk of illness and injury – or worse – to employees and others but also protects a business against prosecution, potentially very substantial fines and associated damage to business reputation.

Construction employers seeking clarification or guidance on their health and safety responsibilities, including in relation to working at height, can find out more by contacting Lara Murray. For advice and representation in the event of a prosecution, please contact Jeremy Sirrell.