Contractor exempt from paying £140k fine over fatal barn roof fall

A judge has ruled that the new owners of a company that provided temporary accommodation in the run up to the 2016 British Grand Prix are exempt from paying the £140,000 fine following a fatal roof barn fall.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Snoozebox’s previous owners had failed to manage work on a barn roof safely at the site in Silverstone, Northamptonshire, in August 2016. A contractor had fallen through a 4.6m tall barn roof and subsequently died of his injuries.

Snoozebox had rented two barns at Primrose Hill Farm, one of which needed some repairs because its roof leaked and it was suspected that it had an asbestos roof.

To save costs, the directors turned down a £5,000 quote from one contractor and hired a subcontractor who quoted £200, the court heard. However, they did not ask to see any documentation to demonstrate his competence, experience and expertise to safely complete the work required.

Judge Rebecca Crane noted: "There was a failure to carry out even the most basic checks to ensure that either no work at height was being carried out or, if it was, that the appropriate safety procedures were in place."

The court was told that when the subcontractors first climbed onto the barn roof, the company’s staff ordered them to get down but failed to remove both individuals from the site. On the same day, one worker got onto the roof for a second time without any safety equipment.

The HSE accepted that, after the first breach of health and safety regulations, the contractors were acting without any instruction. As a result, neither Snoozebox nor its director were liable for his actions from that point onwards.

The court heard that when the worker climbed onto the roof a third time, no other staff members were around on the site. Later that day, however, staff discovered an overturned table that was covered in blood in the barn. The contractor was found in one of the company’s accommodation pods and had sustained severe injuries from his fall. He died from pneumonia and sepsis five days later.

Snoozebox, which had pleaded not guilty to the first health and safety contravention, was found guilty by the jury. The company was ordered to pay a £140,000 fine plus £26,332 in prosecution costs.

Snoozebox's director was given a 12-month community order and instructed to undertake 180 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £15,774 in prosecution costs.

Following the fatality, Snoozebox’s previous owners had faced insolvency and abandoned the barn adaptation. When liquidators came in, they recommended a CVA.

However, according to the earlier civil case ruling in April, Snoozebox is not required to pay the criminal fine due to a Part 8 claim made under the Insolvency Act 1986. It is, however, liable to pay the prosecution costs and has paid this.

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