Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 5th November 2015, Marcel Păduraru, a 30-year-old Romanian construction worker, fell through a fragile plastic skylight into a basement three metres below. He suffered a severed spine and is unlikely ever to walk again.
Grangewood Builders Ltd had been appointed as the principal contractor to carry out a £5m refurbishment at a large house in London. Grangewood engaged Trenchco Ltd to carry out specialised demolition work.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that, despite work being carried out next to the skylight, neither company had checked if it was fragile or took action to stop people falling through it.
Neither company ensured the work was adequately planned and, as a result, safe systems of work were not identified and implemented. Site hazards ranged from lack of edge protection to manually handling 200kg wooden beams.
The investigation also found that the Trenchco supervisor directly controlling the work had no formal training relating to supervision and some of the workers, including the Romanian victim, had to rely on unofficial interpreters to pass on instructions and tell them what the health and safety records contained.
Grangewood Builders Ltd of Lionel Road, Canvey Island, Essex pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay £7,025.98 in costs.
Trenchco Ltd of Clewer Crescent, Harrow Weald, Middlesex pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined £270,000 and ordered to pay £7,025.98 in costs.
HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers said after the hearing: “The risks relating to fragile skylights being fallen through and the simple solutions to avoid this are well known. The failings at the site were not limited to the unprotected plastic skylight. Other activities such as the demolishing of a roof without edge protection could also have resulted in a serious incident.
“While these companies may have wanted health and safety compliance, their failure to pay enough attention to their actual performance at the site resulted in a tragedy occurring. No one should go to work and return unable to walk again.”