Site boss fined £7,300 after electrician broke his back in 20ft fall after being told ‘what do you need a harness for?’

Ashby Farm, near Daventry
Ashby Farm, near Daventry

A man has been fined £7,300 after admitting a health and safety breach which led to an electrician breaking his back in a 20ft fall.

Ian Black was sentenced at Northampton Crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty at a hearing before magistrates in February last year.

The company involved, Alternative Energy Installations Ltd, which was fitting solar panels to the roof of a barn, entered voluntary liquidation in June 2012.

It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay an additional £27,000 in costs.

The accident took place at Ashby Farm in Norton Grounds, near Daventry, in November 2011.

Electrician Christopher Morris, then 20, fell more than 20ft, or six metres, from the roof of the barn, breaking his back.

Although his fall was broken by soft flooring, he spent four weeks in hospital, and has been unable to work since.

Black, of Denbigh, north Wales, a director of the firm and the site supervisor, was responsible for ensuring workers had adequate safety measures in place.

But when workers asked if they could use harnesses to fix the solar panels, Black had dismissed the request, asking: “What the **** do you want harnesses for?”

However, the prosecution accepted the incident had not occurred as a result of any attempt to cut costs.

Defending Black, Ben Compton QC said his client was remorseful for what he described as Mr Morris’s “appalling injuries”. He also said Black had entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Compton added: “He accepts that when he turned up to work that day he was the site supervisor.

“It is to his eternal regret and shame that he didn’t stop it.

“This is a case of negligence rather than deliberately putting people in danger.

“After this dreadful accident he was ordered to go on a site managers’ safety training course, and he learned an awful lot about working on heights, and realised what he had been doing wrong.

“One can only wish Mr Morris a recovery and hope he finds himself back in employment in due course.”

Sentencing, Judge Rupert Mayo said Black had been reluctant to call for an ambulance straight away because he realised how much trouble he was in.

But he said Black had shown remorse and regret for the incident.

Judge Mayo added: “This was a case which was crying out for adequate safety measures on site and none were provided.”