This page is part of our insights into health and safety breaches, prosecutions and convictions.
The incidents on this page should serve as a reminder to all those in the roofing and construction industries of the importance of planning projects in advance and having the correct safety equipment on site at the right time.
1 – The Sofa Incident
A company director has been jailed for 14 months and his firm fined over £3 million for health and safety breaches.
Martin Gutaj, 44 from Brentford, was sentenced at the Old Bailey on Friday 7th July 2017.
He was also barred from being a company director for 4 years.
The prosecution was brought after two construction workers fell to their deaths.
On 21 November 2014, Polish nationals Tomasz Procko, 22 and Kyrol Szymanski, 29, were using a rope to haul a large sofa over a balcony and into a first-floor apartment when a 100-year-old cast iron balustrade gave way.
Neither worker was wearing a harness and there was no scaffold or netting in place.
Their employer had failed to provide them with adequate training, a risk assessment, method statement or works plan.
The court also heard how advice from a reputable company on how to carry out the task in a safe manner was ignored due to time and financial restraints.
The cost of delivering the sofa safely with an external elevator was quoted as £848.00.
Company boss Martin Gutaj, did not accept the offer, responding via email: “if your delivery guy wants [an] additional £1k that is just not acceptable.”
2 – An Expensive Balancing Act
David Mulholland received a suspended sentence for balancing on scaffold poles 90 feet in the air, during the rain and without any type of fall assist in place.
The roofer chose not to ask an on-site scaffolder to make the area safe and instead climbed onto wet scaffold poles to hammer steel joists into place.
Judge Nicholas Sanders described his actions as “breathtakingly stupid” before handing down a prison sentence of 6 months which was suspended for 18 months.
The self-employed roofer was also fined £1400 with additional court costs of £2939 and a victim surcharge of £85.
Health and Safety Executive lead inspector Matt Greenly made the following statement after the conviction:
“Never before in my career as an HSE Inspector have I seen such a staggering disregard for personal safety as is demonstrated by the photograph of Mr Mulholland balancing on scaffold tubes in the rain.”
3 – Two Roofing Firms Found Guilty of Health and Safety Breaches
Two roofing firms have been fined over £150,000 after a worker fell nine metres through a fragile roof and was left with life changing injuries.
The worker underwent major surgery that involved inserting metal rods into his back.
Contractor JDB Industrial Roofing Ltd and sub-contractor ACG Roofing Ltd, both from Northamptonshire, pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches.
The court heard how the worker was on the roof without handrails or netting and the harness he was wearing wasn’t attached to anything.
Speaking immediately after the court hearing, HSE investigator Edward Fryer said:
This incident could have been fatal; the worker has suffered life changing injuries due to the company failing to properly plan and supervise work at height.
This case highlights the importance of proper planning, supervision and implementation of work at height especially on fragile roofing.
4 – T. Broom Construction Ltd
In early July 2017, T. Broom Construction Ltd was found guilty of serious health and safety breaches after a 26-year-old employee fell through a roof he was repairing.
Ryan Sartin suffered a broken pelvis and wrist after falling several metres onto a concrete floor.
The court heard how T. Broom Construction Ltd failed to provide any safety netting or edge protection.
The company was fined £6700 with court costs of £1016.
After the court hearing HSE inspector James Lucas said:
Mr Sartin is very lucky he did not sustain more life threatening injuries as a result of this incident.
T Broom Construction Limited failed in its duty to protect employees working at height by not appropriately planning the work. Suitable planning would have identified the measures required to minimise the risks of a fall from height.