Roofer given suspended prison sentence for unsafe work at height

Monday, January 16, 2017


• The Defendant was stood unsafely balancing on a scaffolding bar

• He was hammering steel beams into position near King Street in Manchester City Centre


Hearing

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that on 21st January 2016 The Defendant, David Mulholland, was seen by shocked office workers working at height without the necessary safe system of work in place. He was stood balancing perilously on a scaffolding bar whilst hammering steel beams into position at the Kings Street Townhouse Hotel.

Mulholland said in Court that he didn’t appreciate how stupid he was being until he saw the picture.

He also accepted that he had acted unsafely rather than asking the on-site scaffolder to make the area safe. He explained that he was trying to expedite the job as they were behind schedule.

Sentence

• He was sentenced to six months in prison. However, the Court the suspended the sentence for 18 months. He was also fined £1,400.

• He was also ordered to pay costs of £2,939.18 and a victim surcharge of £85.

Additional Case at Construction Site

In addition, what the HSE have described as an ‘unusual’ case, two roofers, Aaron Hepworth and Jake Clarke, were also caught flouting health and safety on the same building three months later, and were also fined after admitting one charge each of contravening health and safety regulations.


Sentencing Remarks

Addressing Mulholland at the hearing, District Judge Nicholas Sanders said:

“What you were doing was breathtakingly stupid. It defies description that you should be doing what you were doing without any protective measures. You chose to turn a blind eye to the fairly obvious risks that existed. The only person who was really put at risk in this case was you.”

After the case, HSE inspector Matt Greenly said:

“Never before in my career as an HSE Inspector have I seen such a staggering disregard for personal safety as is demonstrated by the photograph of Mr Mulholland balancing on scaffold tubes in the rain. It is a matter of pure luck that no-one was injured or killed by working at height in the manner seen in this image provided by a member of the public.”

“I would like to thank the person who reported their concern to us as they have been instrumental in saving the lives of Mr Mulholland and arguably anyone below him at that time.”

Safety Smart Comment:

• Public policy tends to lean towards prosecuting companies over individuals for their health and safety responsibilities under Section 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and its associated regulations. However, this case demonstrates that when employees are considering cutting corners and creating unnecessary risk, they should remember that they also have individual responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Section 7, to act in a safe way. Failure to do so can result in their prosecution and subsequent conviction which will ultimately result in a criminal record and an unlimited fine.

• This case also exemplifies that the HSE will now, with the recent shift that has occurred with the implementation of the new sentencing guidelines introduced in February 2016, prosecute when no injury has occurred, focusing on the risk created of the unsafe act. In this instance the Defendant was prosecuted for the potential fatal risk of walking on a scaffolding pole at height.

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