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Worker dies after falling through roof

  • 05 March 2014
  • By Roger Brown

Logistics firm Aramex (UK) has been fined £250,000 after a contractor’s employee died when he fell through a warehouse roof.

In a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Manchester Crown Court was told that in December 2011 the warehouse and offices at the Aramex site on the Ringway Trading Estate near Manchester Airport was suffering from a leak.

The firm hired local roofing contractor Gary Edwards, who had previously carried out work for the company, to fix it. When he arrived on site with his employee Michael Sweet, 48, they were asked to fix the leak and clean out the guttering.

Later that day, Sweet stepped on a fragile, clear roof panel designed to let light into the warehouse, and fell to the concrete floor below. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

During an interview under caution, Edwards admitted that the only safety equipment he had provided for cleaning the warehouse roof had been a pair of gloves.

Safety measures could have included placing boards over the fragile roof panels, using harnesses, erecting scaffolding or hiring a cherry picker.

However, Edwards had failed to implement any of these or to carry out a risk assessment for the work. The HSE investigation found that Aramex had also ignored its own health and safety guidelines. It failed to supervise the work, nor did the company assess how it would be carried out, despite knowing that the roof was fragile.

Aramex (UK) and Gary Edwards each pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Aramex was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000.

Edwards, 55, received a four-month prison sentence suspended for one year, which means he will be sent to prison if he commits another offence within the next year.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Ian Betley said: “Michael Sweet sadly lost his life because neither Aramex nor Gary Edwards put enough thought into his safety while working on a fragile warehouse roof.

“Mr Edwards had carried out work at the warehouse on several previous occasions and so knew the roof could be dangerous, but he failed to take any action to keep Michael safe,” he said.

Betley added: “Aramex was also aware of the risks, but had left the two men to it, rather than carrying out its own assessment of how the work would be carried out and monitoring what was being done. Companies and individuals have a legal duty to ensure the safety of workers they employ or who carry out work for them.”

He added: “If Aramex and Mr Edwards had taken their responsibilities seriously then Michael’s life could have been saved.”


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