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St Helens healthcare firm sentenced over fatal fall

Date:
22 November 2013

A St Helens healthcare firm has been fined £170,000 for serious safety failings following the death of a worker who fell nearly six metres from scaffolding.

Peter Winchurch, a self-employed joiner, had been hired to help build an extension to a semi-detached house on Bromilow Road in Skelmersdale when the incident happened on 9 November 2009.

TRU Ltd, which was in charge of the construction site, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the scaffolding was dangerous.

This was due in particular to a lack of guard rails and inadequate decking. In addition, TRU Ltd’s site employees were not trained in safety, there were no risk assessments and there were no method statements.

During a five-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court, the jury heard that TRU specialises in providing rehabilitation for people with brain injuries, but that it also took on some building projects.

Mr Winchurch, 68 from Skelmersdale, had been working on the roof trusses for the extension to the house when he fell from the scaffolding. He suffered critical head injuries and died in hospital the following day.

TRU Ltd, which now trades as TRU (Transitional Rehabilitation Unit) Ltd, was found guilty of two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company, of Haydock Lane in Haydock, was fined £170,000 and ordered to pay a further £82,145 in prosecution costs on 22 November 2013.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anthony Polec said:

“The failings by TRU Ltd were a significant cause of Mr Winchurch’s tragic death.

“The scaffolding was clearly dangerous, which meant that the risk of a worker being killed or seriously injured in a fall was highly foreseeable.

“The safeguards required were reasonably practicable, and there is much published guidance on the subject from HSE and the construction industry.”

Falls from height are the biggest cause of workplace deaths in the construction industry in Great Britain. Information on improving safety is available 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: “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 Act 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.”
  4. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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