UK: East Sussex Company, Director Guilty of Manslaughter

The UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging companies to carry out full risk assessments following the prosecution of a company, IC Roofing Ltd., and its owner and director, Colin Cooper, at Hove Crown Court following the death of an IC employee.

Cooper appeared at Hove Crown Court on Jan. 5, where he pleaded guilty to breaches of health and safety law. He pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges but a jury found him guilty of the manslaughter of employee Darren Hoofe.

On Nov. 29, 2005, 20-year-old Darren Hoofe was employed by IC Roofing Ltd. to carry out work at the Bellbrook Industrial Estate in Uckfield. Hoofe fell through a skylight onto the factory floor while working on the roof. He was not wearing a safety harness and had not received full safety training. He died at the hospital the following day from his injuries.

Sussex Police and the HSE launched an investigation into the circumstances of Hoofe’s death. Subsequently, Cooper, was charged with his manslaughter and offenses under the Heath and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states, “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states, “(1) “Where an offense under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offense and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

“The tragedy of Darren Hoofe’s death is that it could so easily have been avoided,” said Amanda Huff, HSE inspector. “Colin Cooper showed reckless disregard for the safety of his employees even though the risks and necessary precautions were well known to him. If fatal accidents are to be prevented, then work must be adequately planned and appropriate measures taken before work starts.”

Huff added that if there is to be any positive outcome from Hoofe’s death, “then it has to be that other roofing contractors appreciate that compliance with health and safety requirements is important and that failure to do so can have serious consequences.”

Detective Inspector Colin Dowle, from Sussex Police, echoed Huff, commenting, “This is a particularly tragic event which was entirely preventable. Colin Cooper ignored the obvious risks in favor of economic gain, sadly at the cost of Darren’s life.”

Dowle revealed that Cooper had received previous warnings from HSE inspectors.
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