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Companies and director sentenced after worker’s fatal fall

Date:
13 May 2013

The director of a concrete structures firm has been ordered to pay a total of £25,000 in fines and costs after a worker died following a fall from height at a Swansea building site.

Carillion Construction Ltd, Febrey Ltd and director Michael Febrey, were prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at the Meridian Quay apartment development on 22 January 2008. Carillion and Febrey were fined on 23 November, 2012 and sentencing against Mr Febrey was adjourned until today’s hearing.

Self-employed father of two Russell Samuel, from Porth, was contracted by Febrey Ltd to work as a scaffolder at the site.

Swansea Crown Court heard today (13 May 2013) that he was dismantling a scaffold ladder access platform ahead of the installation of a roof and staircase on the fourth floor when he fell around 19 metres to the ground, narrowly missing a carpenter working directly below.

Mr Samuel, 40, suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull. He was taken to Morriston Hospital but died two days later.

An HSE investigation found Febrey Ltd had inadequate and ineffective health and safety management arrangements and there was little or no communication, information and instruction provided to its workforce.

The management team on site was not adequately trained in health and safety, despite repeated warnings by its health and safety consultants. This led to persistent and systematic failures to control risks at the site.

Mr Febrey was aware of the failings within his company – his workforce had raised concerns about the site – yet he failed to take responsibility for the company’s failings which allowed this culture to continue.

Carillion Construction Ltd failed to ensure the safety of its employees and those under its control. The company, as principal contractor at the site, was made aware of and had detected many failings in the safety management of Febrey Ltd. However, it failed to gain improvement from the company.

Michael Febrey of 3a Rockleaze Road, Bristol pleaded guilty to breaching two counts of Section 37(1) of the same legislation. He was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

Carillion Construction Ltd of Construction House, Birch Street, Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £130,000 and ordered to pay £52,500 in costs in the earlier hearing.

Febrey Ltd, of Burcott Road, Bristol, which when into liquidation shortly after the incident also admitted breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. In his sentencing remarks, His Honour Judge Thomas said he fined the company a token amount of £85, which – had it still been solvent and able to pay – would have been in the region of £250,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anne Marie Orrells said:

"Febrey Ltd did not manage health and safety. I can only echo the sentencing remarks made by Judge Thomas, that: ‘…there was a lack of proper and adequate expertise, training and direct responsibility for matters of health and safety. The personnel, the time, the resources and the will were all lacking to address the reoccurring problems of people working unsafely at height as necessary. Disregard for basic safety measures were left unchallenged. No one took ownership of the issue. In such an atmosphere, not only the inexperienced and the vulnerable, but the experienced like Mr Samuel, can become sloppy and complacent. It was against that background and in that culture that the accident happened.

"This culture was allowed to continue without proper managerial intervention and for that reason Mr Febrey, as the managing director, must bear a portion of direct responsibility. There was a void in the company’s organisation, which Mr Febrey must have recognised, but did not rectify."

Inspector Orrells added:

"Carillion Ltd. had a duty to plan, manage and monitor the work. Febrey’s failing were all too apparent, moreover Carillion were aware of it. Judge Thomas said: ‘Ultimately, what they did not do was stop it – they did not do enough, they did not achieve the desired necessary result. Nagging and warning are one thing- positive, effective action is another. Carillion should have taken robust steps to remedy a situation which they were perfectly aware of.’

"Falls from height are still the biggest killer in the construction industry and this is the tragic reality of what can happen when adequate arrangements are not in place to manage health and safety.

"Mr Samuel was a young man who had a lot to live for. His children and family will have to live with his loss for the rest of their lives. It is heartbreaking that his untimely death could so easily have been prevented."

Further information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/falls

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related 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 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states that "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  3. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, states that "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."
  4. Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states that "Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly."

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