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Stonemason in court following death of four-year old boy

Date:
26 June 2013

A stonemason has been fined for serious safety failings after part of a poorly-installed fireplace toppled onto and killed a four-year-old boy at his Northamptonshire home.

Kristian Childs, trading as KD Childs Stonework of Luton, had been sub-contracted to install stone fireplaces in new homes, including one in Coulthard Close, Towcester, which was subsequently bought by David and Gail Green.

They moved into the property with their son Matthew and older daughter Rachel in June 2003.

On 15 October 2005 the 47kg mantel from the fireplace came away from the wall without warning and fell on Matthew. He was airlifted to hospital but died of his injuries shortly afterwards.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought the prosecution, found that Mr Childs had secured the mantel with small patches of mortar rather than mechanical fixings.

Northampton Crown Court today (26 June) heard that Mr Childs was aware of the need to ensure fireplaces were properly secured after two others he had fitted at other properties were found to be insecure by the home owners.

Kristian Childs, 42, of Chestnut Avenue, Sundon Park, Luton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £7,500 with £2,500 costs.

After the hearing Alan Craddock, Head of Operations for the HSE’s Midlands construction division said:

"This was a tragic incident that devastated a young family, made so much worse by the fact it could have been so easily prevented.

"Every stone used in a fireplace must have a mechanical fixing, such as a steel bracket and screws, to hold them together and against the wall. A few small patches of mortar are not acceptable because it cannot guarantee a secure bond.

"Mr Childs was well aware of the risks of falling fireplaces yet failed to take the correct steps to ensure the fireplace he fitted at Coulthard Close was safe, with appalling consequences."

Matthew’s mother, Gail Green, said:

"Losing Matthew was devastating. We miss him every day and will never truly recover from the events of that day. We urge anyone involved with the installation of fireplaces to learn from what happened to our precious son and take steps to ensure that they take the time and trouble to fit them properly. If they don’t then lives will continue to be put at risk and Matthew’s death will have been in vain."

The Health and Safety Executive has issued a Safety Bulletin that provides useful information to occupiers about the installation of modular, stone and artificial stone fireplace surrounds and this can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/fireplace-surrounds.htm

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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