Directors jailed after attempting to cover-up cause of roof worker’s fall death

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Two directors of a Lancashire firm have been jailed for 20 months after attempting to cover up the circumstances that led to a 25-year-old worker’s death in a fall from a roof.

Ben Edge was working in bad weather conditions on the roof of a metal structure he was helping to dismantle at Fletcher Bank Quarry in Ramsbottom, Bury, when he fell and suffered serious head injuries in December 2014. He died later the same day at Salford Royal Hospital.

Manchester Crown Court heard that MA Excavations Limited of Ramsbottom had contracted the work to SR and RJ Brown Limited, based in Bury.

An investigation by Greater Manchester Police and HSE found that no safeguards had been put in place to prevent the fall, such as harnesses, netting or a fall restraint system. Scaffolding was not used and a full risk assessment had not been completed.

The court was told that, following Mr Edge’s fall, two of SR and RJ Brown’s directors, Robert Brown and his brother Christopher, and Peter Heap, a worker who had been on the roof alongside Mr Edge, conspired to hide the health and safety failings to attempt to make it appear Mr Edge was at fault for the incident.
Heap brought harnesses to the site at the request of Christopher Brown. Robert Brown falsified a risk assessment that should have been completed before the work began.

The court also heard that MA Excavations and its director, 38-year-old Mark Aspin, failed to carry out any checks to ensure SR and RJ Brown Limited had the necessary knowledge, experience and equipment to carry out the work safely.

On 16 March 2017, Robert Brown, 34, and Christopher Brown, 26, both of Lower Gollinrod Farm in Walmersley, Bury, were each sentenced to 20 months in prison after previously pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice and failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and others.

Their company, SR and RJ Brown Ltd, admitted corporate manslaughter and failing to ensure the health and safety of Mr Edge and was fined £300,000.

Peter Heap, aged 34, of Barrowford Road in Higham, Lancashire, was sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for two years, for perverting the course of justice.
Mark Aspin, of Crow Lane in Ramsbottom, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for failing to ensure the health and safety of others at work and failing to ensure work was planned and managed. His company, MA Excavations Ltd, admitted exposing workers to health and safety risks and was fined £150,000.

Commenting after the case, Detective Constable David Potter, of the CID at Greater Manchester Police’s Bury borough, said: “This is a tragic set of circumstances that has led to the needless death of a young man which has devastated his family.

“These failings were flagrant breaches of the employer’s legal duties and his young daughter will now have to grow up without her dad because of their actions.

“They were trying to make it look like the victim was at fault by falsely suggesting that he had ignored management instructions and that he had taken his harness off.”

HSE inspector Laura Moran said after the hearing: “The dangers associated with working at height are well known and the law and the associated guidance is very clear.
“SR & RJ Brown Limited were not competent to carry out this work and, through its directors Christopher and James Brown, it completely failed in its duties as an employer to properly plan the work and to ensure it was carried out safely.

“The main contractor, MA Excavations Limited, and its director Mark Aspin, failed to carry out any checks to ensure that SR and RJ Brown had the necessary knowledge, experience and equipment to carry out the work safely; instead, they allowed the work to proceed in a completely unsafe manner.

“The failings of both companies and the three directors sentenced today put those working on the project at significant risk, ultimately costing Mr. Edge his life in what was a completely foreseeable and avoidable incident.”


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