Construction chief guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence

A construction boss has been found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence following the death of a roofer.

Steven Wenham, 48, director of Hove-based Total Contractors Ltd, faces sentencing in June for the offence, which can lead to life imprisonment.

Lewes Crown Court heard that 60-year-old Graham Tester had been using a ladder secured by two nails into a timber frame on a building site on Brunswick Street West in Hove on 27 July 2018 when he fell two storeys.

Wenham, of Charlotte Street in Brighton, was also found guilty of two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act regarding failure to properly safeguard against serious injury or death from a fall from height. Total Contractors was convicted of the same two charges.

Tester had been subcontracted by Southern Asphalt for the job. The Brighton firm pleaded guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act while its director – John Spiller, 52, of Fishersgate Close in Portslade – was convicted of the same offence.

Spiller was found not guilty of manslaughter. Both he and Wenham have been bailed while awaiting sentencing.

The court heard that an inspection by the Health and Safety Executive found multiple safety failings, including an absence of scaffolding or barriers to protect those working at height.

Sussex Police detective inspector James Meanwell said: “Employers owe a duty of care to their employees.

“Steven Wenham and John Spiller failed in that duty – the consequences of which were Graham’s tragic death and an irreparable loss to his children and grandchildren.”

HSE data revealed last month that 24 construction workers died on site between April and December 2021, 10 of which were because of falls from height.

For the year 2020/21, 39 fatal injuries were recorded at work in the construction sector, which was lower than the 42 reported in the previous year, but still above the five-year average of 36.

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