Building firm sentenced for corporate manslaughter after accident at work

hseA Cumbria-based building firm and its owner have been heavily fined by the criminal courts after they were found guilty of corporate manslaughter and health and safety breaches following a fatal accident at work in 2011.

Peter Mawson Limited was ordered to pay fines totalling over £200,000 and Peter Mawson, the owner of the company, was sentenced to a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay costs of £31,504.77, following the fatal accident on 25 October 2011.

On the day in question Mr Jason Pennington, 42, was working as a builder for Peter Mawson Limited, a building and joining firm, and had been assigned the job of working on the roof of a farm in Lindal, Ulverston. Whilst Mr Pennington was working on the roof he slipped and fell from a height of over 20 feet to a concrete floor below. Emergency services rushed Mr Pennington to hospital but he died a short while later.

A Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) investigation was subsequently commenced into the accident. The investigation found the following:

  • That Mr Pennington had not provided him with any equipment to prevent him from falling from height
  • That a safe system of work had not been put in place

The Health and Safety Executive recommended that both Peter Mawson Limited and Peter Mawson be prosecuted over Mr Pennington’s death, with the case coming to the Preston Crown Court on 3 February 2015.

Peter Mawson Limited pleaded guilty in December 2014 to ‘corporate manslaughter’ and a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was ordered to pay a fine of £200,000 in respect of the corporate manslaughter offence and to pay a fine of £20,000 in respect of the breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Mawson also pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 in December 2014 and was sentenced to eight months in prison (suspended for two years); 200 hours unpaid community service; a publicity order to advertise what had happened on his company’s website for a set period of time, and to take out a half page advert in a local newspaper; and to pay the prosecution’s costs to the sum of £31,504.77.

Mr Chris Hatton, an investigating inspector at the HSE, commented on the case: “Peter Mawson knew the clear panels on the roof weren’t safe to walk on but neither he nor his company provided any equipment to prevent workers falling to their death. If scaffolding or netting had been fitted under the fragile panels, or covers had been fitted over them, then Jason would still be here today.”

Marc Hadrill, a specialist personal injury solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “Businesses and individuals must adhere to health and safety regulations and may be subjected to civil lawsuits – and potentially criminal prosecution – if they fail to comply with the criminal law or to health and safety regulations.”