Judge fines for safety breaches on work­site


Matthew Skeet (19) and Kevin Ruf­fles (57) were killed when the gable wall of a barn con­ver­sion they were work­ing on in Wor­ling­worth col­lapsed and fell on them on Oc­to­ber 21, 2010. Ip­swich firm El­lis­ton Steady & Hawes, the site con­trac­tor, and Barry Potts, 65, a struc­tural en­gi­neer from Fre­ston, ap­peared be­fore Ip­swich Crown Court, hav­ing pre­vi­ously pleaded guilty to health and safety of­fences at an ear­lier hear­ing.

The in­ci­dent was in­ves­ti­gated by the Joint Nor­folk and Suf­folk Ma­jor In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team, work­ing closely with the Health and Safety Ex­ec­u­tive.

Last June Potts was sum­monsed to court for two counts of man­slaugh­ter by gross neg­li­gence and one of­fence un­der the health and safety act, and le­gal rep­re­sen­ta­tives for a lo­cal build­ing were is­sued sum­mons for two of­fences un­der the health and safety act. At a hear­ing at South­wark Crown Court in De­cem­ber, guilty pleas were of­fered on be­half of Potts and ESH in re­la­tion to health and safety breaches.

Jus­tice Rabinder Singh ac­knowl­edged there was never any sug­ges­tion ESH’s fail­ing had caused the two men’s deaths, and said no cause could be proven with Potts’ fail­ings. How­ever, he said, Potts had fallen “well be­low the stan­dards ex­pected by him of the health and safety at work act” and fined him £15,000, or­der­ing him to pay a fur­ther £5,000 in costs.

And al­though he agreed that ESH was “en­ti­tled to rely upon” Potts to carry out the work safely, Singh said its fail­ure to en­sure that writ­ten state­ments were pro­vided, con­sti­tuted a “se­ri­ous breach” and fined the firm £45,000, or­der­ing it to pay a fur­ther £15,000 in costs.

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