Criminal courts continue to get tough with those whose negligence leads to work-related deaths, handing down two substantial prison sentences this year.

In July the Old Bailey sentenced Colin Holtom, a builder, to 3 years’ imprisonment after a 15-year-old boy, Adam Gosling, was killed whilst working on a building site in April 2007. Fifteen year olds have been banned from working on construction sites for almost 100 years. The investigation which was led by the Police concluded that there was inadequate PPE, no risk assessment, no training and minimal supervision.

The incident occurred when work was being undertaken on an outdoor swimming pool and a pool house, which was being demolished. The work exposed a 22ft long wall that was 7ft high with a large crack running almost down its centre. The wall was deemed unsafe and required demolition. On 23 April 2007, Adam Gosling was working at the site along with his brother. Without proper discussion, instruction or supervision, Holtom told the boys to begin demolishing the unsafe wall. When Adam approached Holtom half way through the demolition to seek his advice, Holtom still took no action and did not inspect the danger area.

During the demolition the wall began to lean in the direction of a neighbour’s garden and on seeking Holtom’s advice Adam was told to go into the neighbours garden and push the wall back. As he did so, the wall fell towards him trapping him against the garage and fatally injuring him. Adam’s older brother witnessed his death.

Holtom pleaded guilty to manslaughter and breach of health and safety legislation and received custodial sentences. Darren Fowler, a sub-contractor who was also involved with the work, received a 12-month prison sentence for working as a company manager while disqualified and was therefore convicted under Section 37 for a breach of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Meanwhile on 30 July a gas fitter from Brecon, Peter Tongue, was jailed for three years for gross negligence manslaughter and health and safety offences having been found guilty by a jury at Cardiff Crown Court.

Two people died from carbon monoxide poisoning from a warm air central heating system that gas fitter Mr Tongue had worked on at their home in December 2006. Mr Tongue had let his accreditation to work on the particular system lapse three years prior to the incident and as a result, his knowledge of the system was out of date. The HSE warned that gas engineers working outside their assessed competence can cost them their liberty and others their lives.

All gas engineers must be gas safe registered and carry a card detailing the appliances that they are permitted to work on. The Gas Safe Register replaced CORGI Gas Registration in the UK earlier this year.