Head of A&E Building sentenced to 18 months after worker fell to his death from defective telehandler

A construction company boss has been jailed for the manslaughter of one of his employees.

Wayne Davies, head of A&E Buildings in Powys, was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment after a worker died when he fell from a "homemade" basket balanced on the forks of a telehandler.

Mark Jones was working on the construction of a steel-framed barn on a farm in south Staffordshire in February last year. He died in hospital after he fell 25 ft when the telehandler toppled over. Another worker, Adam Waygood, suffered serious injuries but has since recovered.

Davies had denied manslaughter but admitted he failed to maintain the telehandler, which was found to have several faults including a defective handbrake.

He was convicted of two health and safety offences, including a failure to ensure the safety of his employees, but was acquitted of a third.

The case went to court after a joint investigation between the police and the Health and Safety Executive. Joy Jones, the HSE's principal inspector, said it was a reminder to the industry of its legal obligations to manage health and safety issues.

The director of a large company would almost certainly have been fined

Alan Ritchie, UCATT

She said: "All contractors should ensure that all work at height is planned, supervised and carried out in a safe way. Workers involved should be trained and competent, and any equipment being used should be suitable for the task and appropriately inspected."

Trade unions have seized on the incident as an example of inconsistencies in the prosecution of corporate manslaughter cases. Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union UCATT, claimed that had Davies been head of a larger organisation he would have been fined, not jailed.

He said: "The courts have recognised the serious failures by this employer to protect his workers and have rightly imposed a custodial sentence. However, had he been a director of a large organisation then it is almost certain that the sentence would have been a fine.

"This case is yet another example of the need for corporate manslaughter legislation so that owners and directors of large companies can be punished for health and safety failures that result in death."

Last October, the HSE warned the industry of the dangers involved in using mobile elevating working platforms and telehandlers. It also held talks with manufacturers about potential modifications to their design after it emerged that an average of one worker is killed every year by the equipment.