A Cumbrian joinery firm has been hit with a £220,000 fine after pleading guilty to the corporate manslaughter of one of its workers who fell through a fragile skylight.
At around 3:15pm on 25 October 2011 emergency services attended West Cumberland Farmers Ltd’s site in Ulverston, Cumbria, following a report that a man had fallen through a roof.
The man, 42-year-old Jason Pennington, an employee of Peter Mawson Ltd, had been working on the roof and had fallen through the skylight from a height of approximately 7.5m onto a concrete floor. He was taken to Furness General Hospital where he died a short time later.
The company boss, Peter Mawson, pleaded guilty to breaching section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He also faced a charge of gross negligence manslaughter, which he pleaded not guilty to, and was ultimately left to lie on file.
He was sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. He was told to pay £31,504.77 in costs.
The judge at Preston Crown Court imposed a publicity order on the firm, compelling the company to publicise on its website what had happened.
The notice must remain on the site until the next AGM.
A half page advert was also ordered to be taken out in the local newspaper, the Northwest Evening Mail, which has an average readership of just under 11,000 across Furness.
Chris Hatton, the investigating inspector at HSE, said Peter Mawson knew the clear skylights were not safe to walk on, but neither he nor his company took any steps to protect Mr Pennington.
“Jason tragically lost his life because the company that employed him did nothing to make sure he was safe while he worked on a fragile roof,” he said. “If scaffolding or netting had been fitted under the fragile panels, or covers had been fitted over them, then Jason would still be here today.”
Peter Mawson Ltd pleaded guilty in December to corporate manslaughter and a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was fined £200,000 for the corporate manslaughter offence, and £20,000 for the breach of HSWA.
It is the 10th successful prosecution under the act since it was introduced in 2008.
“This has been a long and complex investigation, and we have worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive to establish what happened on that tragic day,” said DS Paul Yates of Cumbria Constabulary. “I hope that this case serves as a warning to other businesses in Cumbria that health and safety measures are extremely important, and if not implemented correctly can result in devastating consequences.
“Our thoughts remain with the family of Mr Pennington at this difficult time. Hopefully the sentencing today will provide some sort of closure, and they can be left to grieve in peace.”
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