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Firm fined £250,000 over worker fall death at Wythenshawe warehouse

Date:
31 January 2014

A logistics firm has been fined £250,000 after a worker was killed when he fell through a warehouse roof in Wythenshawe.

Michael Sweet, 48, from Stockport, was cleaning out the guttering at Aramex (UK) Ltd on the Ringway Trading Estate near Manchester Airport on 12 December 2011 when he stepped on a fragile panel and fell to the concrete floor below.

Aramex and Mr Sweet’s employer, roofing contractor Gary Edwards, were both prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found no safety measures had been put in place.

Manchester Crown Court heard Aramex had hired Mr Edwards to fix a leak when water began to drip into the warehouse and offices, as he had previously carried out work for the company. He arrived on site with Mr Sweet and they were asked to fix the leak and clean out the guttering.

Later that same day, Mr Sweet fell through the warehouse roof when he stepped on a clear roof panel, designed to let light into the warehouse. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

During an interview under caution, Mr Edwards admitted that the only safety equipment he had provided for cleaning the warehouse roof had been a pair of gloves.

Safety measures could have included placing boards over the fragile roof panels, using harnesses, erecting scaffolding or hiring a cherry picker. However, Mr Edwards failed to implement any of these or to carry out a risk assessment for the work.

The HSE investigation found Aramex had also ignored its own health and safety guidelines. The company failed to supervise the work or assess how it would be carried out, despite knowing the roof was fragile.

Aramex (UK) Ltd and Gary Edwards each pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Aramex, of Heywood Distribution Park in Heywood, was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000. Gary Edwards, 55, of Silverdale Road in Gatley, received a four-month prison sentence suspended for one year, which means he will be sent to prison if he commits another offence in the next year.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Betley said:

“Michael Sweet sadly lost his life because neither Aramex nor Gary Edwards put enough thought into his safety while working on a fragile warehouse roof.

“Mr Edwards had carried out work at the warehouse on several previous occasions and so knew the roof could be dangerous, but he failed to take any action to keep Michael safe.

“Aramex was also aware of the risks but simply left the two men to it, rather than carrying out its own assessment of how the work would be carried out and monitoring what was being done.

“Companies and individuals have a legal duty to ensure the safety of workers they employ or who carry out work for them. If Aramex and Mr Edwards had taken their responsibilities seriously then Michael’s life could have been saved.”

Information on preventing workplace falls in 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) 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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