Director tried to cover up circumstances of fatal fall

Company director Robert Marsh (aged 64) has been sentenced to 12 months in prison after his company illegally supplied roofing panels containing asbestos in June 2011. The offences came to light after a 56-year-old construction worker fell through the fragile material and later died.

HSE found that Mr Marsh supplied pre-used roofing sheets containing white asbestos to a partnership constructing a barn in Worcestershire.

Worcester Crown Court heard that Mr Marsh supplied the roofing sheets and the partnership hired steel erector Tony Podmore to use the materials to build the barn.

During the final phase of construction Mr Podmore fell through the fragile asbestos cement roof sheets to the concrete floor some 6m below.

The farm partnership had agreed to pay £4,000 for what they understood would be substantial roofing material. However, Mr Marsh supplied poor-quality, second-hand roof panels which cost him nothing. He paid £250 for transport and stood to make a profit of £3,750 on the roof alone.

Mr Marsh sought to persuade witnesses to hide the sheets supplied telling one, ‘We’ll all take the fall for this’. He told Mr Podmore’s daughter that her father had fallen from the roof edge rather than through the fragile roof sheets and later tried to persuade Mr Podmore’s relatives not to report the incident to the HSE.

Maximise profit at the expense of health and safety

Robert Marsh of RM Developments (2005) Ltd, of Market Drayton, Shropshire, changed his plea to guilty on the first day day of his trial to one breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and also to a contravention of The Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) Regulations 2008.

In addition to a 12 month prison sentence he was disqualified from being a director for six years and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

Passing sentence, His Honour Judge Michael Cullum said Mr Marsh’s actions were “wholly reprehensible” adding that he acted out of “selfish self-interest” to maximise profit at the expense of health and safety.

Speaking after the prosecution, HSE Inspector Luke Messenger said:

“Asbestos fibres are a well-known and widely publicised health risk and can lead to fatal illnesses. The supply of materials containing asbestos has been illegal for many years. Mr Marsh demonstrated a complete disregard for the law for his financial gain. In this case, the weak second-hand panels he supplied were a significant contributing factor to the death of Mr Podmore.

This tragic incident also demonstrates the dangers of working on fragile roofs. Falls from height are the major cause of workplace fatalities and measures should always be taken to protect workers when they are working from height.

This result today is a reflection of the seriousness of the offence and could only have been achieved with the hard work of the investigating inspector, the late Mr Paul Humphries”.

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