The owner of an East Lancashire roofing firm has been fined more than £3,700 and handed a suspended jail term after breaching health and safety regulations after a worker fell from a ladder and died.
Richard Thornton, 52, appeared in court after his firm, Vanguard Roofing, was prosecuted by HM Inspector of Health and Safety, after one of his employees died while at work and Thornton failed to ensure he was insured.
The company, based in Upperbrook Court, Greenbrook Road, Burnley, was charged with contravening health and safety regulations and failing to be insured.
In May 2021, roof replacement work was being carried out on a domestic property in Burnley by Richard Thornton, trading as Vanguard Roofing.
On the final day on site, an employee of Mr Thornton was climbing a triple extending access ladder on the roof, to reach scaffolding at eaves level, whilst carrying a pile of slate on their shoulder.
They slipped and fell to the ground, sustaining fatal injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the interlocking sections of the ladder they had been negotiating did not allow for three points of contact to be maintained, especially when a load was being carried: a single pole access ladder would have enabled this.
The employee had also been wearing loose fitting footwear, which had not been allowed for a firm foothold on the ladder.
There was no safe means of transporting materials to the roof, such as a gin wheel and bucket, which would have avoided the need for carrying loads via the ladder.
Had these measures been taken, proper contact could have been maintained and the incident avoided.
The investigation also found that Mr Thornton did not have any employer’s liability insurance in place to protect workers.
Thornton pleaded guilty to both charges on July 21 and was sentenced at Blackpool Magistrates’ and Civil Courts on Friday, September 2.
Sentencing Thornton, magistrates handed him a 26 week prison sentence, suspended for two years.
A prison sentence was necessary, they said, due to the offense involving a fatality, but it could be suspended as Thornton admitted his guilt from the outset, has no relevant previous convictions, has a family to support, and the bench decided there was a “Real prospect of rehabilitation in the community”.
He was also ordered to complete 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days, and was ordered to pay costs of £3,600 and a surcharge to fund victim services of £128, which must be repaid at £100 a month from September 30.
HSE Inspector Christine McGlynn said: “Each year falls from ladders kill a number of workers.
“This tragic incident could have been avoided by the selection of equipment which would have meant that three points of contact could be maintained.
“Inexpensive equipment, such as a gin wheel and bucket, could and should have been made available to avoid the need to carry materials up a ladder.
“Every employer needs to ensure that they have Employers Liability (Compulsory) Insurance in place to insure against liability for injury or disease to their employees arising out of their employment.
“Where employers are found to be in breach of this requirement, they will be held to account by HSE.”