A 2015 case was concluded last week with jail for the building site manager Faruk Patel after one of his workers fell through a flat roof skylight and later died in hospital.
We take a look at the events and safety failings that led to Mr Patel being found guilty. The case is an extreme example of the consequences of failing to heed your legal responsibilities with regards to health and safety.
The fatal building site accident
On Saturday, January 24th 2015 Tasadaq Ur-Rehman was working on a site in St Saviours Hill, Leicester, when he fell through a skylight in a first floor roof sustaining serious head injuries.
He was taken to the Leicester Royal Infirmary but later transferred to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where he subsequently died on Wednesday, January 28th.
Following the incident, a joint investigation between Leicestershire Police and the HSE was launched.
Faruk Patel, the manager on the building site had asked Mr Ur-Rehman to fit windows on the first floor. However, shortly after arriving on site he fell three metres through an open skylight.
Despite asking Mr Patel to cease work at height on the site followed the incident, the HSE vistited twice and discovered evidence that work had continued.
When police attended in February and again found that the order had been breached, Mr Patel was arrested and charged with manslaughter by gross negligence.
The investigation’s findings (source: shponline.co.uk)
HSE investigations revealed that:
- there was no scaffolding provided in the area where the windows were to be fitted;
- there was no safe method of transferring the windows to the first floor, where access was only by way of a broken, untethered ladder;
- ladders were not secured properly and one was found balancing in a pile of sand;
- nobody on site was wearing any personal protective equipment;
- there was no qualified first aider on site;
- openings in the ceilings on the first and second floors were not guarded;
- there were no signs warning of hazards; and
- scaffolding was not properly secured on the site.
It seems the defendant had no idea of the responsibilities he had for maintaining the safety of the site.
The defendant paid no regard to health and safety requirements whatsoever.
Mr Justice John Saunders
The court case
In court on Friday July 15th 2016, Leicester’s Faruk Patel was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court. It took the jury less than three hours of deliberation to reach agreement.
Mr Patel had also pleaded guilty back in December 2015 to three health and safety offences.
He was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for manslaughter by gross negligence and eight months in prison for the health and safety offences he pleaded guilty to in December 2015. The sentences will run concurrently.
What those working on the case said about the incident and the investigation
This was a tragic incident which could have been avoided had Patel taken his role to protect his workforce on the building site seriously.
“We also hope this case acts as a deterrent to others in the building trade and ensures they think about the health and safety of their workers at all times.
Detective Inspector Alex Hathaway – Senior Investigating Officer
The investigation revealed that scaffolding outside the building was constructed haphazardly. It was not fitted with appropriate walkways but just a few unsecure planks of wood. Nobody on site was wearing any personal protective equipment, there were no warning signs anywhere and no qualified first aider on site.
“This was a serious dereliction of Patel’s duty, one that made him responsible for protecting people on site. His negligence and total disregard of health and safety directly contributed to the unnecessary death of a worker.
Detective Constable Beverley Toon
We identified several areas around the St Saviours Hill site where falls could occur, and where workers were at risk of being seriously injured or killed as a result. No health and safety precautions had been taken in relation to health and safety on this site. Faruk Patel continued to put workers’ lives at risk even after a fatal accident on the site.
The difference between where Faruk Patel was in relation to his legal obligations and where he should have been created extreme risk. He fell far short of what the law required and put lives at risk.
Health and Safety Executive inspector Sarah Hill
Even after the fatal fall, Patel refused to accept any responsibility for the safety of workers on his site.
[Patel] said [safety] was everyone’s responsibility and that the tradesmen knew the dangers of working on a building site.
He said if they did not work safely, well, that was their fault; everyone took care of themselves.
He said if the deceased needed help he should have asked for it and, since he chose to work alone, the deceased only had himself to blame for his misfortune. As far as he was concerned, the site was safe.
Deanna Heer, Prosecutor
It is an aggravating feature that despite a prohibition notice the defendant continued to allow people to work on both the first and second floor. The second offence was after Mr Ur-Rehman died.
I take into account that he had no intention of Mr Ur-Rehman suffering harm and never thought he might. Nevertheless, the defendant caused a death through gross negligence.
Mr Justice John Saunders
SHP Online shponline.co.uk
Leicestershire Police https://leics.police.uk/news-appeals/news/2016/07/15/building-site-manager-convicted