Benjamin Edge had been working on the roof of a shed with no safety equipment in wet and windy conditions
Manchester Crown Court sentencing heard how bosses tried to conceal their ‘flagrant’ health and safety failings
SUMMARY OF KEY FACTS:
• Benjamin Edge died in an accident at Fletcher Bank Quarry in Ramsbottom.
• He was 25 years old and had a two year old daughter.
• In the hours after Mr Edge was rushed to hospital, his employers at the company, SR and RJ Brown, falsified documentation and mislead the police about health and safety equipment that they alleged was on site:
i) Peter Heap, who had been working on the roof alongside Mr Edge, brought harnesses to the site after the tragedy.
ii) James Brown falsified risk assessments, which were legally required to have been completed beforehand.
COURT HEARING – GUILTY PLEAS
• The Browns’ firm, SR and RJ Brown, based in Bury, admitted corporate manslaughter and failing to ensure the safety of Mr Heap.
• The Directors of the firm also admitted their individual culpability concerning failing to ensure the Deceased’s safety at work and perverting the course of justice.
• MA Excavations, the Ramsbottom firm who contracted the work to SR and JR Brown, admitted corporate responsibility for exposing workers to risk.
• Mark Aspin, of MA Excavations, admitted failing to ensure work was managed and planned safely.
Andrew Thomas QC prosecuting said to the court that the company had been contracted to dismantle a shed at the quarry by MA Excavations. The company asked workman Peter Heap to help because he was more experienced at working at height.
Unfortunately, the crane and telehandler used for the job did not cover the whole of the roof, so workers had to walk on the roof to complete the job.
Mr Edge, who had worked for the Browns for six years, fell through the roof at about 10am on 10th December 2014. He was rushed to Salford Royal Hospital but was pronounced dead at 10.30pm that night.
Mr Thomas said:
“The work which Mr Edge was performing presented an obvious risk of death or at the very least serious injury. No safeguards whatsoever had been provided either to prevent a fall or mitigate the effects of a fall. These were flagrant breaches of legal duties which the law imposes on the employer.”
ILLEGAL COVER UP
After Mr Edge was rushed to hospital, the falsification of evidence and misleading the criminal investigation started. This was done to suggest that in fact the accident was Benjamin Edge, the Deceased’s own fault.
Heap called his partner and asked her to bring harnesses, and agreed to meet her at a nearby pub and pick them up.
That afternoon James Brown composed the false documents and submitted them to police. The reason why the cover up was initially discovered was because the other employees from the two companies refused to go along with the cover up. However, the Browns persisted with the ‘deliberate falsifications.’
In June 2015, during the police interviews they maintained that the harnesses had been there before the incident, although they did admit falsifying the documents. Heap later admitted his part in the cover up to police.
Owners of SR and RJ Brown, Christopher and James Brown, were both sentenced to 20 months in prison for failing to ensure Benjamin Edge’s safety at work and also for trying to cover up their shortcomings, namely for the offence of perverting the course of justice.
Mark Aspin, owner of contractor MA Excavations, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for failing to ensure work was planned safely and exposing workers to risk at the Quarry where the fatal accident occurred.
SR and RJ Brown were fined £300,000 for their plea guilty to corporate manslaughter, and MA Excavations was fined £150,000 for exposing workers to risk.
During a two-day sentencing hearing at Manchester Crown Court, the court heard how Christopher and James Brown, brothers aged 25 and 32 respectively, attempted to cover up what was a “gross dereliction” of their duty as employers, according to His Honour Judge Openshaw.
FAMILY AND POLICE COMMENT:
Mrs Edge his mother said the following:
“In the aftermath of the fall, when Ben was dying, their sole interest was self-preservation through perverting the course of justice in a futile attempt to lay blame on an innocent, dying young man.”
Detective Constable David Potter, of GMP’s Bury borough, said:
“They were trying to make it look like the victim was at fault by falsely suggesting that he had ignored management instructions and that he had taken his harness off. “I hope that the sentences passed today can help to bring closure to Ben’s family and they can try to move forward.”
SAFETY SMART COMMENT:
• Unfortunately, it is all too common that when serious accidents happen, responsible parties attempt to cover up their failings by fabricating documents. However, in this instance what made the events much more serious was that safety equipment was placed on site that was not present at the time of the accident.
• This case is an extreme example of a fatal accident where those who owed the Deceased a duty of care, failed to provide an acceptable, legally compliant, safe system of work. Their failings were so extensive that they were charged with and pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter as well as individual responsiblity.
• As stated above by the mother of the Deceased, it is morally abhorrent that not only did those responsible deny any wrong doing, but actually tried to frame the Deceased, by suggesting that he hadn’t used safety equipment provided or complied with risk assessments and was reckless about his own safety and therefore responsible for his own death.