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£350,000 fine after director blown off school roof in 150 km/h winds

 Construction contractor Bowmer and Kirkland has been fined £350,000 for its failings as principal contractor in a case where the director of a subcontractor was blown off the roof of a school building, falling 11 m and sustaining serious injuries.


Bowmer and Kirkland was heading the project to build a new three storey teaching block at Abbotsfield School for Boys in Hillingdon, west London.

It had contracted Advanced Roofing to carry out roofing works on the project, with this firm in turn subcontracting substantive roofing works on the main building to JKW Roofing Services, although Advanced used its own workers on other areas of the site.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 23 February 2017, warnings were issued and many activities on the site were suspended as Storm Doris moved across the UK, bringing high winds gusting at up to 150 km/h.

However, work continued on the roof of the main building until the early afternoon, when John Whitham, the sole director of JKW Roofing Services, was blown off the roof by a gust of wind.

Whitham, 52, fell 11 m and sustained severe injuries to his pelvis, vertebrae and tibia, from which he continues to suffer. Freestanding A-frame barriers and stacks of insulation were also blown off the roof, the court heard.


If a suitable safe system of work had been in place, the life changing injuries sustained by Mr Whitham could have been prevented

HSE inspector Gabriella Dimitrov


The HSE found that all three companies had failed to put in place a suitable and sufficient system to assess the effects of high wind when working at height.

The companies had taken an informal approach to assessing weather conditions, which was out of line with industry standards, the HSE concluded.

All three companies were charged with breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005; all three defendants pleaded guilty.

Regulation 4(3) requires every employer to ensure that work at height is carried out only when the weather conditions do not jeopardise the health or safety of persons involved in the work.

Bowmer and Kirkland of High Edge Court, Church Street, Belper, Derbyshire, was fined £350,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,190.28.

Advanced Roofing of Littlewell Lane, Stanton-By-Dale, Derbyshire, was fined £29,300 and ordered to pay £6,187.88 in costs.

JKW Roofing Services of Gedling Road, Arnold, Nottinghamshire, received a 12 month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £6,159.48 in prosecution costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Gabriella Dimitrov said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to the workers in the safe system of working.

“If a suitable safe system of work had been in place prior to the incident, the life changing injuries sustained by Mr Whitham could have been prevented.”

According to accounts filed with Companies House, in the year to 31 August 2018 Bowmer and Kirkland reported a pre-tax profit of £54.5m on turnover of £938m.

The HSE served an improvement notice against Bowmer and Kirkland on 15 November 2017, which said that a construction site in Durham had not been kept in good order and in a reasonable state of cleanliness.

The improvement notice was complied with, according to the HSE’s enforcement database.


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