Sunderland firm fined after South Shields accident

Newcastle Crown Court
Newcastle Crown Court

A Sunderland construction company and a roofing firm have been fined after a worker was seriously injured when he fell through the roof while working on a South Shields community centre.

Tony Brown, 55, from Newcastle was employed as a roofer by M & C Roofing Contractors Ltd.

He fell four metres and broke six ribs in the incident in December, 2012. It took him a number of months to recover.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted his employers and the principal contractors for the project, Sunderland-based Brims Construction, after an investigation identified serious safety failings.

HSE inspectors found that there were no suitable safety measures in place to prevent a person falling through the rooflight holes. Nets had been installed to the steel framework just below the roof, but had been removed more than two weeks before the incident.

Brims Construction, of Austin Boulevard, Quay West Business Park, Sunderland, denied breaching health and safety legislation at Newcastle Crown Court but was fined £50,000 after being found guilty.

The company was also ordered to pay £35,000 costs.

M & C Roofing Contractors Ltd, of Brunswick Industrial Estate, Wideopen, Newcastle, was fined £8,000 after also being found guilty.

The company was also ordered to pay £999 costs.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Emma Scott said the accident could have been much more serious: “This was a wholly avoidable incident that resulted in serious injuries to Mr Brown, and which could have easily been fatal.

“Work at height is a high risk activity and falls from height remain the single biggest cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry.”

A spokesman for Brims Construction apologised for the fact Mr Brown had been injured on one of its sites, but defended the firm’s decision to deny the charge.

“We are a company which takes health and safety extremely seriously, and on this occasion we felt we had gone to lengths required to ensure the working environment complied with the guidelines, in all respects,” he said.

“After professional advice we submitted a not guilty plea.

“The accident, which occurred in 2012, involved a specialist roofing sub-contractor falling through a hole for a roof light which he had recently cut in an area where work was advised as being complete.

“Thankfully, he was not badly injured and returned to work soon after, having made a full recovery. We deeply regret such an incident has happened on one of our sites.”