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  • Writer's pictureFearghal Harrington

Fines totaling £135,000 and suspended prison sentence imposed after workplace tragedy

FINES totalling £135,000 and a suspended prison sentence was imposed today for health and safety breaches which led to an on-site fatality in Co Down.

Raymond Morgan (43) died whilst working at a site being redeveloped on Comber Road, Newtownards on May 28, 2014.

No safety measures, such as harnesses or nets, were in place and the father-of-two fell through asbestos roof sheets onto a concrete floor five metres below.

Two men appeared at Downpatrick Court Court, sitting in Belfast, and were fined for breaches that led to what Judge Geoffery Miller QC described as an "utterly senseless death".

Leslie Wright (80) - whose company Lesley Wright and Son was employed as a sub-contractor - was fined £30,000 for failing to ensure a safe system of work, and £60,000 for failing to protect non-employees.

The Newtownards man is no longer involved in the business, which has a history of health and safety breaches including an incident involving a 17-year-old who died on his first day of work when an unsupported wall fell on him.

Wright was also handed a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Also in court was Donaghadee man Hugh Miskimmin (54), whose company H Miskimmin Limited admitted a charge of failing to ensure the safety of non-employees on May 28 2014.

The company, based at Main Street, Moira, was fined £45,000.

While Wright and Miskimmin admitted the offences, they remain in a dispute about their roles and on-site responsibilities.

The site was being re-developed, and clearing, demolition and removal of asbestos were sub-contracted to Leslie Wright and Son.

Wright claimed he had a verbal contract with Miskimmin for the removal of asbestos on the factory roof that included the supply of workforce, which was denied by Miskimmin.

Miskimmin claims his company didn't carry out work on the site, he used contacts to supply workers and provided equipment to Wright to be used.

The roof sheets were made of old asbestos and the fatal accident occurred as no safety measures were in place to prevent that fall.

Judge Miller said it would have been obvious to Wright and Miskimmin - who visited the site - that safety measures were necessary and it appeared they were not implemented due to cost-cutting and desire to get the job done.

He cited "no clear chain of command or responsibility" regarding workers, including paying them and ignoring safety concerns.

Judge Miller said: "What makes the sense of loss all the greater, however, is the utter senseless of the death caused as it was by a reckless irresponsibility and criminal negligence by those who had the duty to ensure that he went about his work in safety".

The HSENI welcomed the fines and prosecution.

Health and safety inspector Anne Cassidy said: "This tragic loss of life was avoidable.

"We're working at height cannot be avoided, all contractors must ensure that safety measures are put in place to prevent falls and protect workers".



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