Site manager jailed for gross negligence

A site manager who is said to have had a “total disregard of health and safety” has been convicted of gross negligence manslaughter following the death of a worker who fell through a skylight.

The court heard that the worker fell through an open skylight on the first floor flat roof of building and suffered serious head injuries, which he subsequently died from.

A joint investigation by Leicestershire Police and the HSE discovered that the building site manager had asked the employee who was an experienced window fitter, to fit doors and windows 1st floor of the property, which he did during the weekend.  However there were significant safety failings on site including:

  • no scaffolding in the area where the windows were to be fitted
  • access to the first floor was via a broken, untethered ladder,
  • a lack of PPE on site
  • unguarded ceiling openings on the first and second floors
  • no signs of warning hazards
  • scaffolding was not secured properly
  • ladders were not secured on site (one was balanced on a pile of sand)

HSE inspectors issued a prohibition notice on the site manager, ordering a halt to any work at height. However, on two visits they found evidence that work was continuing.  As a result they arrested the site manager and charged him with manslaughter by gross negligence.

The site manager was found guilty and was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for manslaughter by gross negligence and eight months in prison for the health and safety offences, which he had previously pleaded guilty to, to run concurrently.

The Judge stated that “It seems the defendant had no idea of the responsibilities he had for maintaining the safety of the site. The defendant paid no regard to health and safety requirements whatsoever.”

The Inspector involved with the case commented “We also hope this case acts as a deterrent to others in the building trade and ensures they think about the health and safety of their workers at all times.”

During the case it was reported that the defendant has stated that safety “was everyone’s responsibility and that the tradesmen knew the dangers of working on a building site.”  He said that “if they did not work safely, well, that was their fault; everyone took care of themselves.” He then went on to say that “if the deceased needed help he should have asked for it and, since he chose to work alone, the deceased only had himself to blame for his misfortune. As far as he was concerned, the site was safe.”

Construction work involves many different people carrying out a variety of tasks.  Everyone has a role to play in managing construction health risks however, site managers are responsible for the safety of those on site and ensuring that work is carried out safely.

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