Wellingborough worker killed after falling through roof ‘should never have been allowed up there’, says judge

Peter Smith died while working for a crane company sub-contracted to help fit a new roof to Virani Foods in Wellingborough. Virani Foods was not in any way to blame for the accident and was not involved in the court case.

Peter Smith died while working for a crane company sub-contracted to help fit a new roof to Virani Foods in Wellingborough. Virani Foods was not in any way to blame for the accident and was not involved in the court case.

Two firms have been fined more than £290,000 after a communication “muddle” caused a Northamptonshire man to fall to his death during a routine roof replacement.

Peter Smith, 58, died while working on a contract to replace the old asbestos roof of the Virani Foods factory in Stewarts Road Wellingborough, on August 9, 2013.

The dad-of-two from Wellingborough fell from eight metres through a fragile skylight and died at the scene.

But a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that a set of Yeoman boards needed to create a safe working platform on the roof were not installed prior to the job commencing.

Yesterday both Mr Smith’s employees, A-Lift Crane Hire, and the main contractors for the job, Premier Roofing Systems Limited, were fined £104,000 and £181,000 respectively after pleading guilty to the HSE prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act act.

Prosecuting Adam Farrer, said: “The death was completely avoidable and occurred due to a series of safety errors by the defendants.”

Premier Roofing Systems Limited had been hired to replace the asbestos roof at Virani and sub-contracted a scaffolding firm to fit the Yeoman panels.

But the court heard that the roofing firm also hired A-Lift to transport building materials up to the roof on August 9 - knowing that the scaffolding work had not been signed off and the Yeoman panels were not due to arrive for another three days.

On August 9 it was Mr Smith’s job to unload the materials once they had been hoisted to the roof by crane.

While Premier Roofing admitted its part ordering the work ahead of the panel installation, the HSE said A-Lift should have ascertained what safety measures were in place before starting the job.

Judge Rupert Mayo, sentencing, said: “It is immediately apparent there was a muddle as to ensuring he appropriate equipment, training and instructions were provided to Mr Smith.

“Premier knew the access tower had not been handed over and the Yeoman boards ordered by them would not be on site.

“A-Lift should have scoped this properly when (a supervisor) visited the site on August 7.

In simple terms, no employee should have been allowed up there until the Yeoman boards were available.”

In mitigation for Premier Roofing, Dominic Kay claimed his firm expected A-Lift to provide three, not two , employees on the day and have carried out its own health and safety checks as a “specialist contractor.”

Of Premier’s involvement he said: “This is a country mile away form a firm trying to cut corners in order to do a job cheaply.”

For A-Lift, James Agero, said the “primary responsibility” for ensuring Mr Smith’s working environment was safe rested with the main contractor.

“A-Lift only failed in attaining whether Premier Roofing had done its job properly,” he added.