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Roofer prosecuted after grandmother and grandson burnt with bitumen

by Redmans Solicitors on December 2, 2013

A High Wycombe-based builder has been fined by the Redhill Magistrates’ Court after it was found that health and safety breaches by him had caused or contributed to serious injury to a grandmother and her 21-month-old grandson.

Self-employed roofer Mr John Terrell, 50, had been contracted to felt a flat roof and in order to complete the job it was necessary to use bitumen. The bitumen was melted at ground level and then carried up a ladder in a bucket to the roof where it was being applied. Several trips up the ladder had been made without incident but on one of the trips up the ladder slipped just as the unidentified grandmother approached the roofers with her grandson to ask whether they wanted a cup of tea. The bucket of bitumen that was being carried up the ladder fell directly on to the grandmother and grandson and they sustained burn injuries to their head, face and lower body. They were hospitalized for a number of weeks by the accident.

The Health and Safety Executive were informed of the accident and subsequently investigated. This investigation found that there had been health and safety breaches by Mr Terrell, including a failure to put in place a safe system of work and a failure to supply suitable equipment to enable the work to be carried out safely (the ladder was in poor condition with missing or badly worn rubber feet. A prosecution of Mr Terrell was therefore recommended.

The case came to the Redhill Magistrates’ Court on 25 November 2013. Mr Terrell pleaded guilty to a breach of s.3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £1,100, as well as being ordered to pay £1,335 in costs.

HSE Inspector Amanda Huff stated after the judgment: “Extreme caution must be taken at all times when working with bitumen because it can be incredibly harmful – as the grandmother and her young grandson can sadly testify. John Terrell didn’t take extreme care. He was using a ladder with clearly visible defects that wasn’t properly secured, and they sustained horrific burns as a result.”

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “Businesses have obligations under UK health and safety legislation to ensure that they take reasonably practicable steps to ensure that neither workers nor third parties are injured because of workplace practices. The HSE clearly felt in this instance that Mr Terrell hadn’t taken reasonably practicable steps.”

Redmans Solicitors are unfair dismissal solicitors offering settlement agreement advice to employees and employers

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