Roofing boss gets suspended sentence after worker death

The boss of a Lancashire-based roofing firm has been handed a suspended prison sentence after an employee fell and died at a construction site.

In May 2021, a worker employed by Richard Thornton, trading as Vanguard Roofing, was carrying out roof replacement works on a domestic building in Burnley.

On the final day of the job, an employee was climbing a triple-extending access ladder on the roof to reach scaffolding at eaves level, while carrying a pile of slate on their shoulder.

They slipped and fell to the ground – sustaining fatal injuries, and died at the scene.

According to a statement from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), its investigators found that the interlocking sections of the ladder did not allow for three points of contact to be maintained, especially when a load was being carried. It pointed out a single pole access ladder would have enabled this.

The probe also discovered that the employee was wearing loose fitting footwear, which meant they did not have a firm footing on the ladder as they climbed.

Thornton also did not have any employer’s liability insurance in place to protect his employees, which is a legal requirement, the HSE said.

At Blackpool Magistrates’ Court, Richard Anthony Thornton of Greenbrook Road, Burnley, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Section 1(1) of the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.

He was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay costs of £3,600.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Christine McGlynn said the death could have been avoided, had the employer used “inexpensive equipment”, such as a gin wheel and bucket, to transport the materials up the ladder.

McGlynn also warned employers of the dangers of an insurance breach. She said: “Every employer needs to ensure that they have Employers Liability (Compulsory) Insurance in place to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment.

“Where employers are found to be in breach of this requirement, they will be held to account by HSE.”

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