ELECTRICAL chain Comet was today (Monday, July 5) ordered to pay nearly £100,000 after a roofing worker's death.
Comet has been fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £24,400 in costs after roofing worker Paul Alker fell while working at its Wrexham store in 2007.
Dad-of-one Mr Alker, from Brynteg, was a casual worker taken on by a local roofing company to paint guttering at the store when he fell through a fragile roof.
In court the company admitted that on June 7, 2007 it failed to ensure the safety of Mr Alker and colleague Aaron Pugh when working at heights.
Simon Parrington, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, said Mr Alker fell 7.3 metres and died five days later from the injuries he suffered in the accident.
Scaffolding had been put up at the side of the store to enable the men to get on top of the roof.
But the roof was made of fragile sheet and Mr Alker effectively fell to his death.
He had no training, he had not been provided with a safe system of work, had no safety gear and was in fact wearing trainers on the roof.
At the time Mr Alker had been employed by Steven Smith of Wrexham Roofing Services Ltd who was previously jailed for two years after he was convicted of manslaughter.
Comet had picked his company randomly out of the Yellow Pages, did not provide him with their own health and safety policies, failed to control the roofing company, and did not monitor his work at all, the court was told.
Mold Crown Court heard how Smith had given a regional surveyor assurances over the safety procedures to be followed.
But he did none of it, and hired safety harnesses after the accident and placed them on the roof to try and mislead investigators.
Judge Rowlands said he hoped the sentence would now give the family closure, although it was a matter of regret that it had taken three years.
James Leonard, defending, said Mr Alker was clearly a much loved member of his family and his loss was felt deeply and keenly.
Comet accepted its failings and its responsibilities but felt a keen sense of being misled by Smith.
It was accepted that if his work had been monitored as it should have been then his failings would have been uncovered, the court was told.
A regional surveyor had been given assurance by Smith, took him on and trusted him to do the job properly after he had been provided with health and safety assessments, which Smith had not followed.
After the hearing HSE inspector Debbie John said Comet failed to ensure that its contractor had taken steps to prevent falls through the fragile roof lights, ultimately leading to the death of a worker.
She said: “This incident could have been avoided if the roof lights had been protected and Mr Alker had been provided with appropriate safety equipment."
Comet company secretary Andrew Stoodley said that following the accident they had reviewed all their processes and with the help of the HSE, had implemented a “robust contract management system”.
He said: “Our thoughts and sincere condolences have been with Mr Alker’s family following this tragic accident.”
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