Linley Developments Ltd found guilty of corporate manslaughter charges at St Albans Crown Court on 22 September 2015
by Louise Hosking
(Photo – South Beds News Agency)
In January 2013, an unsafe structure fell on Gareth Jones, a bricklayer, working in an area others had warned the Linley Developments project manager (Alfred Barker) was unsafe. Gareth died instantly.
This ITV video clip explains the incident in more detail: http://www.itv.com/news/anglia/2015-09-22/supervisor-knew-of-wall-risk-before-death-court-hears/
On the day of the Linley Developments conviction, Gareth’s widow, Lianne Jones, gave an incredibly moving account to BBC News London on the impact his death has had on her and her small son. Her words will stay with me for a long time.
Being a safety & health practitioner is incredibly difficult at times. The single, most important measure of our success is that nothing happens…
Commitment, time and resources are required to improve a safety culture which the whole work force must contribute to if it is to work. Helping to create safe working practices and developing individuals to make their own risk based choices does not happen overnight, and requires an emotional as well as a financial investment.
When we start working with a business, school or charity arrangements may have to be altered and change may be required. Our service is not free, and in order to kick start improvements it may require more of our time at the start.
A false sense of security…
If nothing happens, over time directors can begin to wonder why they are putting so much resource into checks by managers, new equipment or our support service! They might feel refresh training is not required because their people are experienced and taking them away from the business is expensive.
The HSE and local authority have had their budgets cut, so sites are no longer routinely visited by enforcement officers – they are not available for advice anymore and increasingly are only there to punish. Standards begin to fall, maybe only slightly at first, attitudes begin to change and the organisation struggles to adapt to new legal requirements.
Recent legislation calls for greater controls…
Under Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM15), a construction phase plan must be created before any building or construction work starts. This should identify key areas which lead to death or serious injury and must be controlled. The top killers are currently:
• Work at Height
• Collapsing structures especially during demolition
• Collapsing excavations
• Exposure to asbestos
• Exposure to dusts and fume
• Accidental contact with services e.g. electricity, gas, water
• Risks to members of the public or those nearby
• Sun Exposure
CDM15 provides detail on the types of inspections and checks which must be undertaken on structures, or before excavations are entered.
Serious accidents rarely happen because of one poor error in judgement. Usually, there are multiple opportunities to have prevented what happened. It’s like a chain of domino’s all standing on end. Push one down and the others will fall, but if you remove a domino, or make a different decision, the whole line stays where it is.
In this particular case, others expressed a concern but the warning was ignored, and someone – a father, husband, son – died.
On 24th September 2015, Linley Developments Ltd were fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £25,000. Managing director Trevor Hyatt, 49, of Hertford and project manager Alfred Barker, 59, of Gazeley, Suffolk, both received six month prison sentences suspended for two years. Mr Hyatt was fined £25,000 and made to pay costs of £7,500, with Mr Barker told to pay costs of £5,000.
Gareth Jones with his son Casey and widow Lianne. Credit: ITV News Anglia. Photo posted with deepest respect for the Jones family.