Company in work at height sector prosecuted following fatality
Believed to be one of the first cases involving a company in the work at height sector, a Merseyside scaffolding firm has been fined £300,000 at Liverpool Crown Court after admitting a charge of corporate manslaughter following the death of father-of-three, Adrian Smith,44, who fell to his death from a roof in September, 2012.
Kings Scaffolding based in Netherley, Liverpool, pleaded guilty after failing to heed health and safety warnings or take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of Mr Smith, one of its employees, who was carrying out work on the roof of a shed at the firm’s headquarters. According to the prosecution: “It was an accident waiting to happen.”
The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 (CMCHA) came into force on 6 April 2008. In England and Wales and Northern Ireland, the offence is called corporate manslaughter, and in Scotland, corporate homicide. By the end of 2014, 16 cases had been brought under the Act. This number is expected to rise significantly in 2015.
The Act is intended to make it easier for organisations to be held accountable for deaths caused by their failures. An organisation is guilty of a criminal offence under the Act if the way in which its activities are managed or organised cause a person’s death, and amount to a ’gross breach’ of a relevant duty of care owed by the organisation to the deceased.
In this case, the charge maintained that the way in which the company was managed and organised led to Mr Smith’s death, in that it:
- Instructed or permitted employees to work at height on an unsafe roof without proper safety measures being in place;
- Failed to put in place appropriate safety measures for working at height;
- Failed to undertake a risk assessment for carrying out the repairs;
- Failed to instruct specialist contractors to carry out the repairs.
Comments PASMA’s managing director, Peter Bennett: “This tragic case highlights, yet again, the importance of ensuring that work at height is properly planned and correctly carried out. It’s also a timely reminder of the consequences that await any company or organisation that fails to ensure that its health and safety risks are properly identified and competently managed.”
By imposing the £300,000 fine, Mr Justice Turner said he had balanced the need to punish the company against the risk of punishing innocent employees who would lose their jobs if the company went out of business.