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Company fined £100,000 after Sunderland man fell to his death down dumb waiter shaft
3:03pm Thursday 21st March 2013 in News
A company whose health and safety failings caused the death of a worker who fell down a dumb waiter lift shaft has been ordered to pay almost £100,000.
Kevin Shickle was killed by falling down a lift shaft when he was taken on to carry out specialist renovation work at Durham Estates offices in Temple Chambers, Duoro Avenue, Sunderland.
The 52-year-old had been employed by the firm, who were converting their dining room and kitchen into a gymnasium with changing rooms, as a handyman.
Durham Estates Ltd pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure persons out of their employment were not exposed to risk.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday (Wednesday) Judge James Goss QC heard evidence from health and safety experts to determine the severity of the failings by the firm - and whether they were a direct cause of Mr Shickle's death.
The court company claimed Mr Shickle, from Pennywell, Sunderland, had gone beyond his job specification he was given and had been killed carrying out work he was never asked to do.
But Judge Goss dismissed the claim outright and said: "Mr Shickle was inadequately instructed and inappropriately left to his own devices on this task.
"The failings giving rise to the offences were a significant cause of his death."
The judge fined the company £85,000 for the health and safety breach and said it must pay £12,000 costs.
Judge Goss said: "The fine is not and cannot be any reflection of the value of the life of Kevin Shickle, a hard working family man whose life was so tragically lost as a result of health and safety shortcomings.
"No doubt he will be greatly missed."
John Williams, defending the firm, said: "Can I express the company's regret for this accident and the tragic death and articulate the company's apology for its breach of duty."
The court heard Mr Shickle had been given a specification sheet when he started the job, which involved removing two dumb waiter systems from the premises.
Prosecutor Michael Graham said: "It fails to make any specific reference to health and safety issues or safeguard measures and does not at all address the question of what was to happen to relation to the removal of the dumb waiter carriages."
The court heard Mr Shickle began working on the project on October 4 2010.
It was on October 7 a company director from Tavistock Leisure, Durham Estate's sister firm, found Mr Shickle trapped, but still alive, in a shaft, three meters below ground level.
Mr Graham said: "The fall resulted in significant injuries which led to a severe stroke, which was the eventual cause of death."
Mr Shickle died on October 9 2010.
Mr Graham said it remains unclear exactly how and why Mr Shickle fell.
He said: "There is no record of him having given any account of events that day of how precisely he came to fall.
"He did tell paramedics he was clearing a shaft, that's as much as we know."
Mr Graham said health and safety inspectors found the job specification given to Mr Shickle was "unsound and inadequate" in many aspects.
Mr Graham added: "The role was a specialist job requiring specific competence.
"Although Mr Shickle was a capable handyman, he had no specialist experience or access to specialist equipment.
"The prosecution say a job of this nature should have involved a specialist lift engineer from the outset.
"The work model employed was fundamentally unsound and unsafe."
The court heard Durham Estates Ltd has a clean health and safety record.
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