Director jailed for five years over roof fall tragedy

A construction boss has been sentenced to five years in jail after a roofer fell two storeys to his death on site.

Steven Wenham, director of Hove-based Total Contractors, was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court this week, after being found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, John Spiller, director of Brighton firm Southern Asphalt, was given a 15-month prison sentence over the same incident.

The court heard in April 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.

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

Wenham, 48, of Charlotte Street in Brighton, was 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.

Total Contractors was fined £190,000, and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs and a £170 victim surcharge. Wenham was disqualified from being a company director for 10 years.

Southern Asphalt was fined £120,000, and ordered to pay costs of £20,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

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: “The severity of these custodial sentences demonstrate the seriousness of employers failing in their duty of care to their employees.

“Graham Tester’s death was an avoidable tragedy that has had a devastating impact on his family and friends.

“These sentences should serve as a warning to all employers that you are responsible for the safety of your employees and will face the consequences of a failure to adhere to those responsibilities.”

HSE data revealed earlier this year that 24 construction workers died on site between April and December 2021, 10 of which were due to 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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