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Firms fined after death of scaffolder Michael Stone who fell 8m through a skylight

By CMJohannaCarr  |  Posted: January 30, 2014

  • Carl Payne, director of Dartmeet Services Ltd at Truro Crown Court

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TWO companies have been ordered to pay £135,000 after admitting offences under health and safety legislation following the death of a scaffolder at Davidstow Creamery, near Camelford.

Michael Stone was working on a fragile roof at the creamery’s chemical store as a subcontractor, when he fell eight meters through a skylight on November 4, 2008.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found Mr Stone, 44, of Plymouth, and his employees were not requested to sign in to gain access to the roof and no-one at the site checked his risk assessment for the work.

Mr Stone, who owned MJ Stone Scaffolding, landed on a concrete floor when he fell, suffering multiple injuries. He died in hospital seven days later.

Steel fabricator and erector business, Dartmeet Services Ltd was sentenced at Truro Crown Court on Thursday alongside co-defendant Dairy Crest Ltd, which owns the creamery site.

Both companies had previously admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and Working at Height Regulations.

After legal arguments, Judge John Neligan ruled that Dairy Crest, which had claimed the extent of its breach amounted to the failure to erect a sign warning that the roof was fragile, fell short of its duty and should have checked Mr Stone’s method statement and risk assessment prior to him starting work.

Judge Neligan said: “The fragile roof and skylights were plainly hazardous.

“Had Dairy Crest as an employer of a non-employee made sure that Mr Stone’s method statement and risk assessment were critically reviewed before Mr Stone and his men began work, the obvious fragility of the roof would have been borne upon Mr Stone before he went on it.”

Judge Neligan described Mr Stone as a well-qualified and experienced scaffolder but said the rules exist to protect the experienced as well as the inexperienced.

Dairy Crest, of Esher, Surrey, was fined £75,000 for the breaches and ordered to pay £20,000 towards the costs of the prosecution within 28 days.

In August 2008, Dartmeet, of Union Street, Newton Abbot won a £15,000 tender for works to remove and re-clad the chemical store roof.

The court heard the director of Dartmeet, Carl Payne, who was present in court, was a personal friend of Mr Stone’s and that it was this friendship that led to him being subcontracted to do the scaffolding work.

Judge Neligan said there had been a lack of proper planning and that the accident had been forseeable.

Dartmeet was fined £30,000 for the breaches and ordered to pay £10,000 towards the prosecution’s costs, at the rate of £1,000 a month from March.

Dartmeet’s then manager Mark Tennant, of Valley View, Treburley, Launceston, was also charged with failing to ensure that work at height by subcontractors was properly planned, appropriately supervised and carried out in a safe manner but he was found not guilty after a trial last year.

HSE Inspector, Barry Trudgian, said: “This is yet another tragic fatality caused by working on a roof with fragile rooflights where the risks are well known. In this case, no-one involved took proper control to make Mr Stone aware of the issue ... Simple, straightforward, commonsense procedures could have saved Mr Stone’s life.”

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