A Co Antrim roofing company and its director were fined £ 75,000 in what a judge called “gross negligence and sloppy practices” which resulted in the death of an employee.
Sole director Stephen Heaney pleaded guilty last month on behalf of Ballymena-based H&M Engineering and Roofing Specialists (NI) Ltd to the manslaughter of Hugh Thomas Jack over four years ago.
The 52-year-old pleaded guilty to failure to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees, not to have carried out adequate risk assessments, not to have taken appropriate measures to prevent a person from falling, and to not have reported to health and safety authorities within a reasonable time after Mr. Jack’s death.
Mr Jack, 59, died in the accident in a building where he was working on the insulation of a roof in an engineering office in Carryduff, Co Down, on December 3, 2016.
The father of five children, then between 11 and 27 years old, fell 20 feet through the roof.
The court heard that the roofing membrane gave way because the fastening screws at one end had been removed and the unsecured sheet “couldn’t support his weight when he stood on it,” said prosecutor Charles MacCreanor QC.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive NI (HSENI) found that there were no fall protection measures, seat belts or edge protection measures in the building to prevent Mr Jack from falling through the void.
The roller door to the building was also locked so that colleagues could not reach the deceased quickly.
The court was told that in 2014 a company with a similar name and Mr Heaney as sole director in Scotland had been served with a prohibition notice in which proper security measures were not in place on a site to prevent a person from falling.
Defense QC Frank O’Donoghue apologized to Mr. Jack’s family on behalf of Mr. Heaney and his Ballymena Company, some of whom heard the request and the long-distance hearing.
Judge Miller said he had received testimony about the effects of the victim from Mr. Jack’s wife and three of their children, which spoke of “the deep love they had for him” and the “devastating pain of his untimely death.”
One son wrote of his father’s death: “I couldn’t believe that my idol and role model wouldn’t be there to see me grow as a man.”
One daughter, who was 11 at the time, said, “I was his little girl. I feel like I missed a large part of my life growing up without a dad.”
The judge fined a total of £ 75,000 and said he wanted to “emphasize that no fine by this court shall place any value on the life of the deceased”.