A BUILDING contractor has been fined £7,500 after a worker died in Northwich.
Michael Alty, a 32-year-old employee of Lancashire-based D A Carter Ltd, fell to his death through a fragile roof while replacing lights at the former ICI warehouse on Winnington Lane in March 2004.
Alty was working as supervisor at the warehouse, owned by Winnington Warehousing Limited, when he fell through the roof onto the concrete floor below.
Vale Royal Magistrates Court heard on Friday that D A Carter Ltd, which admitted breaching health and safety obligations, 'failed to provide a risk assessment, method statement, scaffolding, staging, roof ladders or nets' to enable safe working on the 8m-high sloping roof.
Prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, Simon Parrington said Mr Alty and another man ended up on the roof equipped only with a strap and ladder, which was left on the ground, despite the fact that D A Carter Ltd owned scaffolding, crawling boards and harnesses.
He said: 'Mr Alty and his colleague took a great risk every time they climbed onto the roof during a three-day period, as well as every time they moved around on top of the roof.'
Mr Parrington told the court that rather than using 'crawl boards' designed to form a safe pathway across the roof, Mr Alty and his colleague were 'bolt jumping', which involves leaping across the roof.
Mr Parrington said: 'Mr Alty's colleague had his back turned at the time, but spun round when he heard a crack. However, Mr Alty had already fallen through the roof onto the concrete floor a considerable distance below.
'It is the company's responsibility to ensure the safety of its workers, yet our inspectors found that no written risk assessment or method statement - the means of identifying and mitigating against the risk of falls - had been produced prior to the job.'
Defending, Simon Antrobus said: 'Owners Mr and Mrs David Carter wish me to express at the outset their sincere regret at this terrible accident. Mr Alty was much more than a valued employee to them - Mr Alty was Mr Carter's best friend. They went out together, socialised together, and their families socialised together. Mr Alty's death savaged the company financially, but also left Mr Carter's enthusiasm and abilities to run the business waning.'
He said staff had undertaken a safety course after the accident and that Mr Carter had joined Lancashire Police on a voluntary basis to advise on method statements and risk assessment.
He said: 'I believe the Carters deserve leniency, and that the fine must be comparable to the size of the company and its ability to pay. This tragic accident should not force them into liquidation.'
Dr Ken Baird, chairman of the Bench, said: 'This accident may not have happened if D A Carter Ltd had taken sufficient safety measures.' He ordered the company also pay £5,000 costs.