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*UPDATE* Jail term for director after fireball burned worker

The director of three construction companies, two dissolved and one still active, has been handed an eight-month prison sentence and disqualified for seven years after his actions nearly resulted in the death of a worker. The 17-year-old employee was left with life-threatening injuries caused by a fireball ignited by burning waste and was off work for seven months.

Jail term for director after fireball burned worker

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that David Gordon Stead, director of Stead Construction Services (SCS), had failed to ensure that waste material was burned safely. On 28 May 2015, Bradley Rossiter was instructed to stand on top of a skip and pour a drum of flammable thinners onto the burning waste to aid the burning process.

The HSE found that the thinner ignited and created a fireball, which blew Rossiter from the skip, inflicting substantial burns to his arms and legs. Following the incident, Stead did not give the worker first aid nor did he send him to hospital. He also ignored a legal requirement to inform the HSE of the accident, which was only reported sometime later by a third party.

Stead did not co-operate with the HSE investigation and also argued SCS had closed and was no longer able to trade. SCS and a second construction company, Quality Builders (Pontypridd) are listed at Companies House as being dissolved. However, investigating officers found that Stead was listed as being director of a third company, DS Quality Construction Services, which is still actively trading.

The case was first heard at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court on 4 January 2017 where Stead made an early guilty plea to breaching section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and section 4(1) of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

Passed for sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court on 6 February 2017, Judge Jeremy Jenkins took into account the fact that neither Rossiter nor another worker present had received any training. He also noted that Stead’s employer’s liability insurance had lapsed and had not been renewed and that the effect of the injuries on the young worker had been profound. Judge Jenkins said: “The fact that you didn’t phone for an ambulance was unforgivable”.

He determined that Stead’s culpability was very high, and the harm fell in Category 2 – as the incident resulted in “physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term effect on the sufferer’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities”.

Judge Jenkins imposed a 32-week prison sentence, which took into account Stead’s early guilty plea. The director was taken into immediate custody to serve his sentence concurrently with half served on release under licence. The judge also disqualified him from being a company director for seven years. No compensation or costs were awarded but Stead was required to pay a £140 victim surcharge.


Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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  • Absolutely shocking! As a

    Permalink Submitted by Sarah Golembiewski on 21 February 2017 - 11:39 am

    Absolutely shocking! As a health and safety professional and the mother of an 18 year old boy this sentence is outrageous. I can not put into words how disgusted I am with this. How can the actions of this man go almost unpunished?

    • 32 weeks in prison is in

      Permalink Submitted by Peter T on 21 December 2017 - 01:37 pm

      32 weeks in prison is in Health & Safety terms a stiff sentence. Most directors in similar circumstances get suspended sentences (they avoid jail). I don't know why the fact you're an employer automatically means your criminality is treated leniently (in comparison to members of the public commiting similar criminal offences) but it seems that if your intent is to seriously harm someone, it's better (for you) to employ them and harm them through an accident than it would be to injure or kill someone some other way

  • Any comment on why no

    Permalink Submitted by Mags Connelly on 21 February 2017 - 01:33 pm

    Any comment on why no compensation was paid?

    • I would hope that a solicitor

      Permalink Submitted by John Anderson on 23 February 2017 - 07:41 am

      I would hope that a solicitor is now involved and takes him for as much as he has got. However it seems that the employer is a sneaky individual who knows the loopholes

      • Deplorable despicable excuse

        Permalink Submitted by Peter T on 21 December 2017 - 02:02 pm

        Deplorable despicable excuse for a human being with absolutely no moral compass, most likely a narcissist and sociopath, yes. A "sneaky individual who knows the loopholes", not really. The saying "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" applies here. If he'd given minimal cooperation with HSE and reported the incident 14 days after it happened and put his third company into liquidation (i.e. Phoenix the company) just before the trial, he'd have copped a maximum £3500 fine and probably avoided disqualification.

    • In most cases brought by HSE,

      Permalink Submitted by Peter T on 21 December 2017 - 01:51 pm

      In most cases brought by HSE, the Injured Party waives their right to apply for compensation at sentencing for criminal proceedings. Compensation awarded at that time is frankly, derisory. Once the criminal case is settled, a civil case for damages normally follows, where compensation is awarded, not only for physical damage, but also emotional/reputational/loss of earnings and all the other "knock on" costs of being injured and unable to return to normal duties, plus there's a consideration for future/extended medical expenses. There used to be a provision in law that guilt proved for the criminal breach(es) automatically conferred a right to sue. D.Cameron used the Lofstedt report to remove that automatic right, blaming the "compensation culture" which actually doesn't exist. We have the lowest compensation claim rate and the lowest compensation award rate in Europe and a system that prevents good employers from acting on their employees behalf (by paying medical costs etc.) because it implies an admission of guilt. Why not have the Employers Liability Compulsory Insurance payments go into a pot to pay the IP's immediate medical expenses (like physiotherapy)? In many cases the IP could be fully restored to health before the case even gets to court and then the case would argue about "who's to blame" for the damages themselves. In some cases it could be years of preserving (and aggravating) an injury to ensure adequate compensation is awarded after trial

  • H&S law aside, deplorable

    Permalink Submitted by D on 21 February 2017 - 01:57 pm

    H&S law aside, deplorable behaviour by any human prepared to leave a boy with life threatening injuries to survive on his own. Legality takes a second place to any morality

  • Eight months? Unbelievable.

    Permalink Submitted by Charlie Gunter on 22 February 2017 - 08:45 am

    Eight months? Unbelievable. He will probably complete 4 months.The injured party was unable to work for seven.

  • Appalling low sentence - this

    Permalink Submitted by Andrea on 22 February 2017 - 04:15 pm

    Appalling low sentence - this does not reflect the severity of the injuries sustained and his suffering, which should be compensated, but clearly this "Director" tried to avoid any liabilities by dissolving companies, not reporting and clearly has a laisse faire attitude having not provided training to his staff and not having a risk assessment or safe system of work. He should have had at least 5 years and be unable to run his own business for 10years, following adequate H&S training and clearly he's never had any. Rant over. I hope the injured young man has made a good recovery and is able to work and put this awful experience behind him.

  • This shocking accident is

    Permalink Submitted by Simon Miller on 23 February 2017 - 02:24 pm

    This shocking accident is wrong on pretty much every level - morally, legally, environmentally, humanely... the list goes on.
    There really should be a minimum standard that someone has to achieve to be called a "Company Director". The man is clearly far too interested in what he can get away with, rather than facing the responsibility of his actions, or rather non-actions.
    I hope the young lad will one day make a full recovery.


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