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Southampton builder jailed after crushing colleague under wall

6 Dec 21 A negligent building worker has been jailed for three years and three months following the death of a man on a site in Southampton in 2019.

Paramjit Singh
Paramjit Singh

Southampton resident Paramjit Singh, aged 48, was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter following a two-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.

On Friday 3rd December he was sentenced to three years and three months for the gross negligence manslaughter charge. He was also sentenced to 20 months for breaching section 2 and section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which he had admitted previously. Both sentences will run concurrently.

Singh was charged following a joint investigation by Hampshire police and the Health & Safety Executive into the death of 64-year-old Kulwant Singh Athwal from Southampton.

The court heard how officers were called to the site in Chilworth at 9.33am on 16th July 2019, following the discovery of the body of a man in his 60s.

Kulwant Singh Athwal had been working for Paramjit Singh, previously the owner-manager of SAB Builders, on the demolition of Birchdene on Ling Dale. They had been hired by the owners to clear the garden and garage to make way for an extension.

The day before the incident Singh had demolished all but one side of the garage. On leaving at the end of the day, no signs or boarding had been put up to indicate that the site was unsafe.

On 16th July 2019, Singh returned to the site just before 9am to demolish the final wall of the garage. No exclusion zones were identified around the wall, and Singh was not aware of where his team members were when he started up a digger and moved toward the wall.

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Kulwant Singh Athwal was on the other side of the wall when it collapsed onto him.

Post mortem examinations concluded that Kulwant Singh Athwal died as a result of his injuries, which were consistent with being crushed by a heavy object.

The court also heard how Singh’s public liability and CS card were expired after SAB Builders went bankrupt and ceased trading in 2015.

HSE inspector James Lucas said: "All demolition work, however large or small, has the potential of serious risk if it is not properly planned and controlled. Paramjit Singh failed to prepare a written plan for the demolition of the building or any site-specific risk assessments. In this case, simple control measures and safe working practices, such as excluding people on site from danger zones with physical barriers, could have saved a life.

"There are no winners here. The victim, Kulwant Singh Atwal, so sadly lost his life because of the absence of basic safety measures. The perpetrator, Paramjit Singh, will spend time in prison and will always carry the heavy burden of having caused another person’s death.

"HSE would like to encourage all small builders to ensure they know how to properly plan, manage and monitor all construction work they undertake. The HSE website provides a wealth of information, some of it translated into other languages. In addition, HSE wants to stress to all workers from minority communities or anyone from any background who may feel vulnerable, that health and safety law is there for their protection, just as much as any other workers. HSE always focuses on making workplaces safer and healthier, whoever is at risk."

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