Roofer’s death leads to four prosecutions

A developer, scaffolding company, its director and a roofer have been prosecuted after a 36 year old worker fell around seven metres to his death in Staffordshire.

Phillip Lonergan, an experienced roofer, was installing a roof on a new warehouse on 29th December, 2010. The property was being built by E2 Developments Ltd.

Mr Lonegran, of Burton-on-Trent, was standing on the edge of the roof when he slipped. He fell through a gap measuring in excess of 50 centimetres between two scaffolding rails put in place to form temporary edge protection.

Mr Lonergan died in hospital on the same day from head injuries.

Speaking after the hearing at Stafford Crown Court, Health and Safety Executive inspector Lindsay Hope said: “Each defendant failed to ensure Mr Lonergan and other roofers could work safely. In each case their failure was a significant cause of Mr Lonergan’s death.”

Health and Safety Executive investigation

The court heard how a subsequent HSE investigation discovered that the edge protection had been provided by Nottinghamshire-based Albion Tower and Scaffold Ltd.

The company’s director, Lee Cotterill, had no formal qualifications as a scaffolder. Even so, Mr Cotterill had overall control of the design, planning and construction of the edge protection. He personally signed the structure off as being safe.

The edge protection took the form of two scaffolding guardrails running around the roof edge. These were attached to horizontal scaffolding tubes. The court was told that British Standards allows only a minimum of two guardrails to be in place when the angle of the roof is ten degrees or less.

In Mr Lonergan’s case, he was working on a roof with a pitch of 20 degrees.

Roofer Peter Allum was approached by E2 to install the roof panels. Mr Lonergan was among a number of workers whom he offered the work to. Mr Allum was supplied with roof plans detailing the 20-degree angle in October 2010 but failed to address the risks with adequate edge protection.

The investigation also found E2 Developments was unaware of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. These rules required the company, as the client, to inform the HSE of the work and, in doing so, appoint a competent scheme co-ordinator and principal contractor.

HSE inspector, Lindsay Hope, said the temporary edge protection “should have had a third guardrail to reduce the space for a person to slide through”.

“It should also have had netting around the edge, or toe boards,” she added. “No such safety measures were in place. The edge protection was therefore inadequate to reduce the risk of serious harm – something that should have been obvious to both Albion and its director Lee Cotterill.

“E2 was provided with architects’ plans showing the roof was at a 20-degree pitch but failed to plan, manage or monitor the work in order to eliminate the risk of a fall. One of the directors had never heard of the regulations the company should have been working to. It was therefore very difficult for the company to discharge its duties under those Regulations if directors were ignorant of them.

“Peter Allum was aware of the obvious risk of harm posed by the inadequate rails, but did nothing about it. As an experienced roofer he could, and should, have tackled the issue.”

Four sentenced over safety failings

On Tuesday 2nd December, 2014, at Stafford Crown Court:

  • E2 Developments Ltd admitted breaching Regulations 14(1), 14(2) and 22 of the Construction, Design and Management Regulations 2007. The company was fined a total of £66,000 with costs of £13,200.
  • Peter Allum pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Allum was fined £1,500 with £1,500 costs.
  • Lee Cotterill pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Cotterill received three months in prison, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay costs of £4,000
  • Albion Tower and Scaffold pleaded guilty to the same offence. The company was fined £53,000 and ordered to pay £15,500 in costs.

HSE figures show that more than a fifth of all construction deaths are caused by falls from or through roofs. Comprehensive guidance on working at height is available at HSE’s website.

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