Chelmsford Crown Court was told that Dengie Crops, which grows and produces alfalfa for animal feed, contracted agricultural and construction machinery supplier Ernest Doe & Sons to renew a roof at its premises in Asheldham, Essex.
However, Ernest Doe did not have the appropriate experience to carry out the work and subcontracted it to Balsham Buildings, a structural steel fabricator and cladding contractor.
Balsham decided how the project should be carried out and subcontracted the replacement again to Strong Clad.
Rafal Myslim was standing on the asbestos sheeting roof when it gave way. He fell 7 m on to a concrete floor, hitting several pipes in the building on the way down. He suffered a hematoma (bleeding on the brain).
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there was no safety netting or other protective equipment to arrest Myslim’s fall. Its investigation found that all three companies were at fault.
The executive said that Ernest Doe could not carry out its role as principal contractor because it had no experience of working in construction. As a result, it was unable to effectively oversee plans by Balsham Buildings that had highlighted the risk of a fall.
It found that none of the parties had implemented safety measures for 40% of the roof that did not have netting below. They relied too heavily on the verbal briefings to workers reminding them of where the netting was rather than putting in place safety measures for the whole roof.
Ernest Doe & Sons pleaded guilty to breaching reg 22 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for failing to carry out its duties as the principal contractor. It was fined £360,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £10,000.
Balsham Buildings, which, according to its website, is a member of the British Safety Council, was fined £45,000 plus £7,000 costs. It admitted breaching regs 4(1)(a) and 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations for failing to properly plan the work at height and ensure it was carried out safely.
On its website, the company states: “We allow sufficient finance in our tender bids for appropriate [health and safety] provision, particularly in mitigating the risks of working at height.”
Strong Clad pleaded guilty to breaching the same regulations under the Work at Height Regulations and was fined £7,000 with £3,000 costs.
HSE inspector Adam Hills said: “Work at height requires adequate planning, organisation and communication between all parties. This incident was entirely preventable and Mr Myslim is lucky to be alive.”