Health and Safety Executive
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Trafford contractor fined £145k over worker's death

A Trafford firm has been fined £145,000 after an employee plunged ten metres through a fragile roof onto a concrete floor, and died two years later from his injuries.

J Mills (Contractors) Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to put any safety measures in place to stop 32-year-old Alan Kerwin falling while he was replacing a skylight on a warehouse in Ashton-under-Lyne. 

Manchester Crown Court heard that the father-of-one from Lower Broughton, Salford, sustained several serious injuries in the fall on 31 March 2007, including a fractured skull.

Mr Kerwin developed post-traumatic epilepsy as a result of his injuries, and was never able to return to work. He died from an epileptic seizure in April 2009.

The court heard that Mr Kerwin's line manager had received advice from HSE just one week before the incident which could have saved his life. An HSE inspector explained to him how to safely manage work on fragile roofs, but this advice was not acted upon.

The incident occurred at Kayley Industrial Estate on Richmond Street in Ashton-under-Lyne, where Mr Kerwin was working a Saturday shift. He was on the roof with two of his colleagues when he placed his weight on the delicate cement surrounding the glass.

The cement shattered, and Mr Kerwin fell through the gap. The HSE investigation found J Mills had not carried out a risk assessment or put any safety measures in place to protect him.

J Mills (Contractors) Ltd, of Higher Road in Urmston, admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers at risk. The company was ordered to pay £7,700 in prosecution costs in addition to the fine on 31 October 2011.

After the hearing, David Norton, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

"This is a tragic case in which someone has lost their father as a result of an entirely avoidable incident.

"Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of serious injury. But Mr Kerwin was allowed to walk across a roof without anything in place to stop him falling.

"Just one week before, Mr Kerwin's line manager was advised by a colleague of mine about the dangers of working at height, and how to protect employees. If he had acted on this advice then I'm confident Mr Kerwin would still be alive today."

In 2009/10, more than 4,000 employees suffered a major injury as a result of a fall from height at work and 12 were killed. More information on preventing falls in the workplace is 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 prevent 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 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."

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