Worker killed after fall from roof. Employer given suspended prison sentence.

A logistics firm that did not follow its own safety guidelines has been ordered to pay £270,000 after a worker was killed falling through a warehouse roof panel. The roofer’s employer was given a suspended prison sentence for his failures.

Michael Sweet was cleaning out the guttering at a site operated by Aramex (UK) near Manchester Airport when he stepped on a fragile panel and fell onto a concrete floor. He died in an ambulance on the way to hospital.

After investigating the December 2012 incident, the HSE prosecuted Aramex and Sweet’s employer, roofing contractor Gary Edwards.

Manchester Crown Court was told yesterday (30 January) that Aramex had hired Edwards, who had previously carried out other work for it, to fix a leak and clear guttering after it found water dripping into the warehouse and offices.

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

The HSE said that appropriate measures would have included placing boards over the fragile roof panels, using harnesses, erecting scaffolding or hiring a cherry picker.

But Edwards provided none of these controls, nor did he risk assess the job.

For its part, Aramex had ignored its own health and safety guidelines. The company did not supervise the work or assess how it would be carried out, even though it knew the roof was fragile.

Aramex (UK) pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, while Edwards admitted a charge under Section 2(1).

The judge fined Aramex £250,000 with £20,000 costs. Edwards received a four-month prison sentence suspended for one year.

“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,” said HSE inspector Ian Betley.

He added that Aramex was also aware of the risks “but simply left the two men to it”.