Builders get long jail terms for death

Allan Thomson, the Falkirk-based director of Building and Dismantling Contractors Ltd, was sentenced to six years, which is thought to be one of the longest ever sentences for gross negligence manslaughter. Mr Thompson was also fined £400,000 and was ordered to pay £55,000 court costs at Manchester Crown Court last week.

Michael Smith, a director of Rochdale-based C Smith and Sons, which had subcontracted the job to Mr Thomson’s firm, was sentenced to eight months for failing to ensure the safety of persons not in its employment, failing to ensure work is planned regulated and monitored in a way which ensures it is carried out without risks to safety, and failing to ensure work at height is properly planned, adequately supervised and safely carried out. He was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000.

C. Smith and Sons won a contract in 2014 to demolish the Harvey’s and Carpetright buildings in Heaton Norris, Stockport, with plant machinery. But Mr Smith decided later that workmen should remove the roof sheets prior to the structure being unbolted. Mr Smith subcontracted the job to Mr Thompson, who travelled from Scotland with four men to take apart the roof.

In the first five days one of the men, Scott Harrower, stepped through a damaged skylight only just preventing himself falling 30ft to the concrete floor below. The following day a different workman fell through a damaged skylight, fracturing his spine, pelvis, right leg, heel and wrist.

Police officers, who rushed to the site with paramedics, told the company it had an obligation to inform the Health and Safety Executive. Just hours later, the men were ordered to return to the roof. Mr Harrower again fell through a skylight but this time he was unable to stop himself. He suffered catastrophic head injuries and died.

Detective chief inspector Richard Eales said, “It is clear from the evidence that both Smith and Thomson saw an opportunity to make a quick profit without any thought for the workers they sent on to the roof, and as a direct result of that greed Scott died and another man suffered life-changing injuries. Smith and Thomson’s remorse did not then stretch to admitting their guilt, as both tried to hide behind their companies and refused to plead guilty to the charges levelled against them personally.”

A HSE spokesperson said, “Scott Harrower was tragically killed because of the negligence of Allan Thomson and his company’s disregard for protecting workers from a very clear and well known risk that regularly results in serious injuries. HSE worked closely with the police throughout the investigation into Mr Harrower’s death and life changing injuries suffered by another worker.”

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