Fall from height death – and a forged signature

It may be tempting to try and cover things things up when something goes wrong. Don’t do it. At the least, the Company (and yourself) will fail to learn the necessary lessons, and in the worst case your actions may result in a prison sentence. This is yet another example of work at height not being planned and carried out properly, with a worker being killed as a consequence.

The contracts manager of a roofing firm has been jailed after forging health and safety documents after a worker fell to his death.

Kenneth Drake [KD] was working on the roof of an ironmongers in Rochdale in September 2015 when he fell through a fragile roof light. He sustained fatal head injuries.

An investigation by Greater Manchester Police and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there had been fundamental breaches of duty on the part of those who organised the work to the roof – being KD’s employers, Roofing Consultants Ltd and a second company who was also involved in the work, High Ridge Roofing Solutions.

Netting should have been provided, but Roofing Consultants’ contracts manager Mark Bray insisted it was not needed. Experts in the field assessed the site after Drake’s fall and advised that netting was necessary. Another expert in the field stated that it was not difficult to net and if it had been installed, would have caught KD. Experts told investigators that netting would have costed about £1,250 to safely install.

Manchester Crown Square Crown Court was told that following the incident, Bray copied Drake’s signature on a risk assessment document to make it appear as if he had agreed to procedures on the £55,000 project.

In January 2020 at Manchester Crown Square Crown Court, 48-year-old Mark Bray was sentenced to serve two years in prison after admitting failing to take reasonable care of other persons, pursuant to s 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act, contrary to s 33(1)(a). He also pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice.

Roofing Consultants Ltd was fined £100,000 plus £30,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching s 2(1) Health and Safety at Work Act.

High Ridge Roofing Solutions Ltd was found guilty of breaching reg 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 costs.

Greater Manchester Police detective chief inspector Richard Eales said:

[These sentences] should serve as a stark reminder to those who employ people and have a responsibility to look after them in the workplace – cutting corners in this way is dangerous and can ultimately rip families apart, because it was these actions that had absolutely cataclysmic consequences and led to Ken’s unnecessary and preventable death,

The fact that Bray went onto forge Drake’s signature demonstrates than rather than thinking about [Drake] and his loved ones in the aftermath of his death, Bray’s sole thought was to cover his tracks and prevent the investigation from establishing what had occurred.

HSE principal inspector Laura Royales said:

This was an entirely foreseeable and preventable incident which resulted in a tragic and needless loss of life. Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace fatalities in the UK construction industry.

It is vital that those involved in planning, managing and carrying out work at height understand the risks and identify and implement suitable control measures to prevent injury. Had such steps been taken in this case, this incident would not have occurred.