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Written by
on 11 October 2012


A building contractor from Bangor was fined after being found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act. Watkins Jones & Son were found to have not taken all the steps necessary to ensure 21 year old Thomas Whitmarsh’s safety while he worked for them in May 2007.

While working at height Mr Whitmarsh fell almost six meters through a section of roof that had not been properly guarded off. He suffered extreme head injuries and a brain injury that meant he was more prone to infections. Although Mr Whitmarsh had started to make a recovery over many months in hospital he contracted acute meningitis and passed away in December 2009. A pathologist told Mold Crown Court that the illness that caused his death was more than 80% likely to have been caused by his injuries that he sustained in his fall back on 2007.

Roof Work – Lack of  Fall Prevention Caused Tragic Accident

On October 4th the court heard that while Mr Whitmarsh was working on the roof of a shopping centre he had not been protected against the risk of falling. There was an opening in the roof that was not guarded. There was very poor coordination between the building principle and the roof contractors and this resulted in the edge protection around the open part of the roof being removed.

After being found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act Watkins Jones & Sons were fined £450,000 and ordered to pay an additional £98,000 in court costs. The Health and Safety inspector Chris Wilcox spoke to the press after the hearing. He said that falls from height are often the cause of deaths and serious injuries within the construction industry. Many of the falls could have been prevented with the use of simple precautions and equipment that are often overlooked. This comes down to poor management and the Health and Safety Executive will always prosecute when this is the case as it is completely unnecessary.

A Wake Up Call for the Construction Industry

This case shows how serious falls from height can be. Despite appearing to make a recovery Mr Whitmarsh fell ill with an infection that resulted in his death many months after the incident. Contractors and anyone working within the construction industry should take this case as a clear wake up call to ensure that the safety of all workers is considered fully at all times.

Falls from height are one of the most common causes of fatalities within construction. Health and Safety Consultants are there to help you provide the right type of action to prevent any of your employees, contractors or sub-contractors from being put at risk as they work for you. There are multiple health and safety services available that could benefit both you and your workers. Call 0800 1488 677 today and take the necessary action before it’s too late.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.