C Smith and Sons (Rochdale) were contracted to demolish the Harveys and Carpetright buildings in Stockport in 2014. Instead of demolishing the buildings with plant machinery as planned, one of the directors, Michael Smith, decided to dismantle the building piece by piece so that some parts of the roof could be sold on.
The dismantling of the roof, which comprised of corrugated steel sheets and plastic skylights, was sub contracted to Building and Dismantling Contractors who hired four workers for the job via their sole director, Allan Thomson.
On 20 January 2014 one of the workers, Scott Harrower, inadvertently stepped onto a skylight, but avoided falling onto the concrete floor below. At 9am the following day, a second worker fell through a skylight and sustained significant injuries, including a fractured pelvis, spine and injuries to his leg and wrist. The Police attended, but their involvement was limited to advising those on site to notify the HSE of the incident. Michael Smith then ordered the workers back onto the roof to make it safe. Later that afternoon, Scott Harrower (the worker who had managed to avoid falling through the skylight only the day before) sustained fatal injuries after falling through a skylight.
The HSE found that the work was not properly planned or supervised, and adequate precautions were not in place. Both directors, who were the sole decision makers for their respective companies, were said to have cut corners in order to make a “quick profit”. Judge Mark Turner stated that Thomson had made a “callous and disgraceful” attempt to produce health and safety paperwork following the incidents, which would have laid the blame on Mr Harrower himself.
After a trial:
- Allan Thomson was convicted of gross negligence manslaughter and was imprisoned for six years, with an additional term of 20 months to be served concurrently after he pleaded guilty to three HSWA offences. He was also disqualified from acting as a director for two years
- B & DC pleaded guilty to breach of Section 2(1) HSWA and two breaches of the Working at Height Regulations and was fined £400,000
- Thomson and B & DC were ordered to pay costs of £55,000
- Michael Smith was convicted of three breaches of the HSWA for causing his company to be in breach by his consent, connivance or neglect and was imprisoned for eight months
- C Smith & Sons was fined £90,000 for three breaches of the HSWA, Working at Height Regulations and CDM Regulations
- Smith and his company were also ordered to pay costs of £45,000.