Fatal Accident at Work
A family from Bridgend, South Wales, is attempting to take the Crown Prosecution Service to court following the tragic death of teenager Daniel Dennis, who died as a result of an accident at work. The accident happened in April 2003 when he fell from a roof he had been working on in Cwmbran, South Wales.
An inquest into his death held before the Coroner for Gwent returned a unanimous verdict of unlawful killing. Daniel Dennis was just seventeen at the time of his death. It was his first week at work and he had never received any training in working at heights, or in roofing, nor was he ever provided with any safety equipment.
Daniel was working for a roofing company, North Eastern Roofing, which was subcontracted to Midas Construction. Working from scaffolding, this involved the re-cladding to the roof and side of a B&Q store which was situated next to Matalan in Cwmbran, Gwent. Timber was being stored on the roof of the building. In order to access the timber, Daniel could walk over the section of the roof covering the Matalan store. The section of the roof contained Perspex rooflights. The roof lights were not cordoned off nor were there any designated walkways on the roof; there were also no safety barriers.
Daniel’s father, Peter Dennis, had warned the company that his son had no training and should not work on the roof. However he did so, and as he moved across the roof, he passed over a rooflight which gave way under his weight causing him to fall approximately 28ft to the floor below. He was transferred by ambulance to the Royal Gwent Hospital where he underwent surgery. He died later that day.
The inquest was held on 15 March 2005. It took the jury less than 10 minutes to return a verdict of unlawful killing. Representations were made to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to bring charges of Gross Negligence Manslaughter. After some 12 months of considerations, the CPS have decided not to bring manslaughter charges.
As a result, the family's trade union, the GMB, have instructed their lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to apply for a judicial review of the decision.
Mick Antoniw, a partner at Thompsons Solicitors, based in Cardiff explains: "In our opinion the CPS have not considered the evidence properly. We do not think they have followed their own guidelines. We consider there is strong evidence to support the bringing of manslaughter charges. By failing to consider this matter properly we believe they have acted unlawfully. We want an order from the Court to force them to reconsider this matter properly and to have regard to all the evidence. If the application is successful we believe the CPS will have to conclude that they have erred and that they will bring manslaughter charges.”
Daniel’s father, Peter Dennis said: "Sadly nothing can bring back my son, but if this succeeds in preventing another tragic death at work it will be well worthwhile."
Allan Garley, Regional Secretary of the GMB who have backed the case said: “"Each year there are hundreds of avoidable deaths at work. Rogue employers are failing to abide by health and safety rules. The death of a 17 year old boy in his first week at work is an absolute tragedy. The GMB isn't after vengeance, but we want employers who kill workers to be properly held to account."
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reported that falls from height are the most common cause of fatal injury and the second most common cause of major industry to employees, accounting for 15% of all injuries. On average about 50% of fatal injuries as a result of a fall from a height happen in the construction industry. An average of 53 major injuries are caused by fragile roofs.
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