A Northumberland firm and two of its directors have been sentenced for safety failings after a teenage worker died following a fall from a barn roof. Jamie Lee Duddin, 18, of Corbridge, and another Scotts of Whittington Ltd employee were carrying out repairs to the roof lights of the barn at Heddon Low Farm, Heddon on the Wall, Northumberland, when the incident occurred on 23 July 2010.
Newcastle Crown Court heard during a two and a half week trial (from 23 April – 9 May) that the teenager was rushed to hospital but died two days later. Jamie was standing on a roof panel made of fibre cement board when it collapsed. He fell through the roof landing on a concrete floor six metres (20 feet) below.
A joint investigation by Northumbria Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the work had not been properly planned. It also identified that inadequate equipment had been provided and that the workers were not properly trained or supervised.
Scotts of Whittington Ltd, of Great Whittington, Northumberland was today (13 July) fined £65,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for safety failings.
Company director Alfred Wood, 65, of Cherry Tree Cottage, Great Whittington and his son, Christopher Wood, 41, of Tulip Cottage, Great Whittington, a fellow director of the company, also pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) by virtue of Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were fined £13,000 and £2,000 respectively. In addition the defendants were ordered to pay combined court costs of £19,000.
HSE Inspector Martin Smith, said:
“This was a tragedy that could and should have been avoided. Instead a young man has lost his life as a result of collective failures including confusing instructions on how the work should be safely carried out, a lack of supervision and a failure to properly plan the work and provide adequate equipment.
“Falls through fragile roofs, often at agricultural premises, are a common cause of fatalities in the workplace. Maintenance to industrial roofs should ideally be carried out from below using a safe working platform. If access onto a fragile roof surface is unavoidable, then adequate working platforms should be provided on the roof slope with safety nets installed beneath.
“Alfred Wood was also prosecuted for a similar, but non-fatal incident, in 1998 when he was a partner in another company – so he in particular has no excuse for any failures to follow guidance on working at height.
“I hope all those involved in this kind of building repair work can learn from this and appreciate the high risk involved with work at height on fragile roofs. As this case shows, being aware of the risk is not enough to prevent it from happening.”
Northumbria Police Detective Inspector Gareth Craig, added:
“This case follows an extensive joint investigation between the HSE, the Crown Prosecution Service and Northumbria Police into the tragic death of Jamie Duddin – a death we believe was entirely preventable.
“Our aim is to try and avoid anything like this from ever happening again and ensure any individuals who failed in their responsibilities are held accountable.
“Our sympathies continue to be with Jamie’s family who have been supportive throughout the investigation.”