Halsall Toys Europe was fined £200k after contracting with a self employed builder, David Plant, to clean a 36,000 square foot asbestos cement roof at its warehouse in Lancashire. Mr Plant’s son worked for Halsall Toys and had recommended his father to carry out the work. Mr Plant then asked a family friend and fellow unemployed builder, Craig Gray, to assist in the works. Mr Gray’s 17 year old son was also assisting with the works on the roof. Whilst the precise circumstances of the incident remained unclear, Mr Gray fell through a skylight to the floor 9 meters below and sustained fatal injuries.

Although a reasonable price for the work in question, if properly completed, should have been in the region of £60 – 70k, Halsall Toys accepted a written quote of £3,700 from Mr Plant, which was clearly well below the expected cost. Despite this, the company failed to check whether Mr Plant was competent to carry out the work, nor did it ask to see any method statements or risk assessments for the work. Following the incident, prohibition notices were served both on Halsall Toys and Mr Plant, which prevented further work on or accessing of the roof.

Despite Mr Gray’s family maintaining that Mr Plant and Mr Gray were partners for the works in question, intended to share the profits equally and that they did not hold him responsible, Mr Plant was prosecuted on the basis that he was in sole charge of the work. He alone had carried out the quote, arranged the works and provided equipment for it.

Halsall Toys admitted breach of s 3(1) of HSWA and was ordered to pay cost of £10,483 in addition to the £200k fine which was imposed in line with the Sentencing Guidelines on the basis the breach was a significant cause of death. Mr Plant, who admitted breach of s 3(2) HSWA was given a custodial sentence of 6 months, suspended for 12 months.