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Boss fined after man breaks back

PUBLISHED: 10:20 23 October 2009 | UPDATED: 11:27 08 July 2010

A former demolition boss has been fined £7,500 following an incident in which of his workers broke his back after falling through a roof.

Tim Philpott, 54, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to provide and implement a safe system of work while dismantling a former aircraft hangar between March 21 and May 9, 2007.

A FORMER demolition boss has been fined £7,500 following an incident in which of his workers broke his back after falling through a roof.

Tim Philpott, 54, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to provide and implement a safe system of work while dismantling a former aircraft hangar between March 21 and May 9, 2007.

Norwich Magistrates' Court heard on Thursday that Lithuanian Gediminas Vasiliauskas was removing old roof tiles and timber from a roof at the former RAF Watton site when he was injured.

Mr Vasiliauskas fell three metres on to a concrete floor and had to have a metal disc inserted into his back. He was unable to work for a year and during that time also lost his sense of taste and smell, the court heard.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Philpott, who was trading as Philpott Demolition and Recycling, of Spinney Close, Long Stratton, for his role in the incident on April 20, 2007.

Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Nicola Surrey said: “Mr Vasiliauskas was lucky to survive this incident, which could have been avoided if his employer had taken precautions to ensure his employee's safety.

“Working at height is one of the most dangerous things employees can do. This case highlights the need for companies to do everything possible to minimise the risks employees face when working at height.

“The HSE provides plenty of advice and guidance for employers on how to keep their workers safe while working at height.”

Sentencing Philpott, who is no longer trading, chairman of the bench Janet Evans-Jones said it was a “reckless act” and “a deliberate breach of health and safety rules with a view to profit”.

Prosecuting, Matthew Taylor said Philpott was carrying out the demolition job for free so he could salvage the materials.

Mr Taylor said: “Mr Vasiliauskas woke up two days after the injury and three weeks later had to have an operation for a metal disc to be inserted into his back. He was unable to work for a year and during that time suffered the loss of both taste and smell.”

He said Mr Vasiliauskas had cut a hole through the roof to drop the tiles through, but had fallen through the large hole he had made. He added: “If you are going to cut a hole that large with no barriers in place, it's clearly an accident waiting to happen.

“There was a potential for making it safe by using a mewp (mobile elevating work platform) but to reduce costs it was not done in this case.

“It was a case of putting profit before safety. It was obviously done as quickly as possible without proper instructions.”

Gavin Cowe, in mitigation, said the mewp system was not used because it could not cover the whole section of the roof. Mr Cowe added: “Mr Philpott has extended his sympathies to Mr Vasiliauskas.”

No order for costs was made, but Philpott must pay a £15 victim surcharge. No order for compensation was made, but the victim can sue Philpott through the county court.

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