Littleborough man jailed for gross negligence manslaughter after two workers fall off roof

Date published: 08 April 2016

Michael Smith of Lightowlers Lane, Littleborough has been jailed for gross negligence manslaughter after two workers fell off a roof they were repairing on the same day.

Smith was jailed for eight months, fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 court costs.

Smith, 52, and his company, C. Smith and Sons (Rochdale) Ltd, were found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and for breaching both the CDM Regulations and Work at Height Regulations.

Allan Thomson of Woodburn Crescent, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire, was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter and both he and his company Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd were found guilty of offences under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act and for breaching regulations 4 and 7 of the Work at Height Regulations at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square, on 3 February 2016.

On Friday (8 April), Thompson was jailed was six years, fined £400,000 and was ordered to pay £55,000 court costs.

The court heard how C. Smith and Sons had won a contract to demolish the Harvey’s and Carpetright buildings in Heaton Norris, Stockport in 2014.

It was originally planned that plant machinery would be used to remotely bring down the structure, a method that would have entailed minimum risk to those workmen tasked with the demolition.

However, between winning the contract and the work actually being carried out, the decision was taken by Smith that the building should instead be dismantled piece by piece, meaning workmen would be required to work at height to remove the roof sheets prior to the structure being unbolted.

C. Smith and Sons then subcontracted the job of dismantling the roof to Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd, which was based in Scotland.

On 15 January 2014, four men employed by Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd travelled to Stockport to carry out the task of taking the roof apart.

This group of men included the two men who would eventually be the victims in this case, the 47-year-old man who would sustain life-changing injuries and 42-year-old Scott Harrower.

The roof of the building was made up of steel corrugated sheets with interspersed plastic skylights, which had deteriorated over time and had subsequently been covered with corrugated steel sheets in a bid to repair the damage.

On 20 January 2014, Harrower accidentally stepped through a skylight and nearly fell the 30 feet to the concrete floor below.

On that occasion he managed to prevent himself from falling, but the near miss did not prevent the men from returning to carry out their work the next day.

At just after 9am on Tuesday 21 January 2014, one of the group - a 47-year-old man – fell through a skylight to the concrete floor below, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist.

Ambulance and police attended, but the incident was deemed to be an accident and once advice was passed regarding the company’s obligations to inform the Health and Safety Executive, officers left the scene.

Despite their colleague suffering horrific injuries, the men were ordered to return to the roof just hours later and at 4pm Scott Harrower fell through a skylight to the concrete below.

He suffered catastrophic head injuries and died as a result.

Detective Chief Inspector Richard Eales said: “First and foremost, our condolences go to the families of Scott and his colleague, who were the victims of both companies’ criminal negligence and who died in tragically preventable circumstances.

“It is clear from the evidence that both Smith and Thomson saw an opportunity to make a quick profit without any thought for the workers they sent on to the roof, and as a direct result of that greed Scott died and another man suffered life-changing injuries.

“Smith and Thomson’s remorse did not then stretch to admitting their guilt, as both tried to hide behind their companies and refused to plead guilty to the charges levelled against them personally.

“Thankfully, the jury saw through their attempts and both now can face justice for the decisions that they made, decisions that have robbed one family of a loving partner, father, and son, and another of a man’s ability to live a life untainted by severe physical injury.”

Scott Harrower’s mother Irene added: “Scott was a nice guy who didn’t deserve to go in such tragic circumstances. He will be missed everyday by his whole family”.

Scott’s partner Jane and his two children, Justin and Robyn, said: “The last two years have been devastating for us, knowing that Scott’s death could have been prevented is unforgivable.

“The effect it has had on us as, especially his two children, is not something that any family should have to go through.

“Scott is and always will be greatly missed by us all.”

After the case, which was brought by the Crown Prosecution Service, HSE Inspector Sandra Tomlinson, said: “Falls from height, and in particular falls involving fragile roofs, are one of the main causes of work-related deaths in Britain. The risks are therefore well-known and documented, as is the guidance on how to reduce these risks.

“The roof dismantling works were not properly planned or supervised and adequate precautions, such as netting, were not put in place.

“This led to two men falling in separate incidents and resulted in one man suffering life-changing injuries as well as the dreadful tragedy of Mr Harrower’s death.”

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