Firm fined £100000 after death of former soldier who fell from roof

A construction company has been orderd to pay more than GBP100,000 after an employee died after falling more than six metres on a Devon farm. Plymouth Crown Court heard how an employee of C & R Construction (SW) Ltd, Neil Phillips from Tiverton, suffered fatal injuries after falling whilst carrying out work installing roof sheets on a new agricultural building in Rydon Farm, Woodbury, Devon. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident on May 11, 2016, found that the company failed to provide suitable edge protection, failed to ensure there was a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks from the use of the edge protection and failed to ensure those installing the edge protection and supervising the work had received adequate training.

C & R Construction (SW) Ltd of Lower Park, Crediton, admitted breaching Regulation 2 (1) of The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined GBP100,000 and ordered to pay costs of GBP11,060.40.

Rydon Farm, where Neil Phillips fell to his death

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Kate Leftly said: "Falls from height remain one of the most common causes of work related fatalities in this country and the risks associated with working at height are well known." "If suitable edge protection had been installed, the tragic death of this employee could have been prevented." Neil Phillips, 44, of Tiverton, was a former Royal Engineer and father-of-two.

He suffered a spinal cord injury and brain damage, and died later that same afternoon at 4.25pm. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive said Mr Phillips, a construction site worker, should never have been in a situation where he could fall off the edge of the roof.

Firm fined £100000 after death of former soldier who fell from roofThe building at Rydon Farm where Neil Phillips fell to his death

Last year a jury returned a narrative conclusion following the two-day inquest stating that the safety barriers were inadequate to prevent him falling from the roof, and that the gap was double that what was recommended by health and safety guidelines. Following the conclusion of an inquest at Exeter's County Hall, the family of Mr Phillips said: "Neil served for 12 years in the Royal Engineers, including tours of duty in dangerous places.

"He worked in close protection with the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, Holland. He accompanied senior war crimes investigators into very dangerous situations.

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"Given this background, no one would have expected Neil to meet his death in the manner he did. At the time of his death, he was working in an industry where consideration of safety appears to be secondary to time and money.

"Safety procedures were sadly lacking on the site where he was working. "The biggest loser in this tragedy are Neil's two young daughters Carrie and Amy who he loved very much. We all hope that lessons will be learned from Neil's death, not only by Neil's former employers C&R Construction, but by the wider industry generally."

At the time of Mr Phillips' death, he had been employed by Crediton-based C&R Construction to help build a large milking parlor from scratch. During the inquest, evidence was heard from Wayne Carpenter, the roof foreman who had been laying roofing sheets with Mr Phillips on the day. He confirmed that although he didn't witness how Mr Phillips fell, he heard a bang which made him turn around and saw him making conscious actions to stop himself.

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Mr Carpenter, who has nine years' roofing experience, recalled: "He fell to his knees and started sliding down the roof.

He went from his knees to his bottom." The inquest heard it had been raining that day and the workers had come down from the roof and stopped for lunch. When they returned to the roof the rain had stopped for 30 minutes and they had been up there for around an hour when Mr Phillips fell from a roof sheet which had been laid around 10 minutes earlier.

Mr Carpenter confirmed he felt it had been safe to go back on the roof and only "parts of it" were slippery. He added he had not previously been concerned by the width of the gap in the safety hand rail.

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Evidence was also heard from Paul Conibeare, co-director of C&R Construction. He said the edging protection used on the job was what they used on a daily basis, and that he had not been aware the distance of it should have been 500mm rather than 250mm.

Since Mr Phillips' death, the company now double up their edging protection to meet the health and safety guidelines.

Mr Conibeare said: "I would not have used it if I thought it was unsafe."

He also denied that putting up the edging themselves rather than using an external scaffolding company, which they did the majority of time on big jobs, was not based on saving money, and said the cost worked out to be the same.

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