Heavy fines for businesses after employee dies in work accident

by Redmans Solicitors on May 23, 2013

A man has been jailed and a business and its director heavily fined after a demolition worker fell to his death in County Durham.

Health and safety breaches can be particularly serious. It is recommended that businesses take employment law advice and health and safety law advice if they think that they may have breached health and safety regulations

A business, one of its directors and a subcontractor were in Newcastle Crown Court this week after a worker was killed in a fall from a cherry-picker after the cherry-picker was knocked over by a falling tree steel beam.

Ken Joyce, 53, was working for Alan Turnbull, trading as A&H Site Line Boring and Machining, on 2 December 2008 when the incident happened. At the time of the incident he was working on dismantling the steel structure of a roof at the Swan Hunter Shipyard in Newcastle. Mr Joyce was working in a cherry-picker and was working in tandem with two other workers, one in another cherry-picker and the other in a crane. Mr Joyce and the worker in the other cherry-picker were dismantling the steel beams and the crane would then lift the beams down to the ground. However, during the work one of the beams slipped and struck the cherry-picker. The cherry-picker was knocked over and Mr Joyce was knocked out of the basket from height. He fell to the ground and suffered serious head injuries, being pronounced dead soon after.

After the accident was reported a joint investigation was carried out by Northumbria Police and by the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”). Criminal proceedings were then subsequently recommended by the investigation report and the matter came to the Newcastle Crown Court this week.

The Court was told that A&H Site Line Boring and Machining had had the work subcontracted to them by North Eastern Maritime Offshore Cluster Ltd, whose director was Mr Christopher William Taylor. Mr Taylor and North Eastern Maritime Offshore Cluster Ltd were responsible, the jury was told, for failing to ensure that Mr Turnbull’s business was sufficiently competent to carry out the works in question as the police investigation found that Mr Turnbull had failed to adequately plan the work in accordance with health and safety law. In particular, it was found by the police and HSE investigation that he had failed to plan a safe system of work to dismantle the steelwork structure.

Mr Turnbull was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter at the trial and sentenced to three years in prison. He had earlier pleaded guilty to breaches of s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Mr Taylor was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000 after he was found guilty of breaching s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

North Eastern Maritime Offshore Cluster Ltd was found guilty of breaches s.2(1) and s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £1 for each offence in absentia as it is now in liquidation.

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