A senior judge blasts security at the Hove site where a worker died Brighton News

A SENIOR judge has described a damning catalog of errors at a major multi-million pound construction site in central Hove that resulted in the death of a worker.

In a seven-page document, the Honorable Mr Justice Mr Mark Wall, High Court Judge, laid bare the poor working practices of construction bosses Steven Wenham and John Spiller, who were jailed this week for five years and fifteen months respectively.

The two men’s businesses – Total Contractors and Southern Asphalt, which between them employed dozens of city workers – were additionally ordered to pay nearly £400,000 for breaching health and safety regulations .

The judge noted that there was a ‘lax approach to safety at the site’ and reminded the court that the obligation employers owe to employees is ‘onerous’.

Wenham was also disqualified for being a company director for 10 years. No such order has been placed on Spiller.

The court heard that on July 27, 2018, Graham Tester, of Lewes, and Gavin Hills, his co-worker, showed up for work to carry felt to a roof at the former Dudley Hotel in Lansdowne Place.

The two men carried the rolls of felt – weighing up to 40kg – on their shoulders to a flat roof.

“They put a ladder up the side of the building and secured it by doing nothing more than driving in two nails,” Judge Wall said. “They then used the ladder as a means of access for themselves [and] once on the roof, there were no safety barriers in place even though their job involved them working to the edge of the roof.

The Argus: The site where Graham Tester, 60, diedThe site where Graham Tester, 60, died

It was while carrying a roll of felt from the floor to the roof that Mr. Tester lost his balance and died.

The 60-year-old was described in court by Sally-Ann Tester, his daughter, as a “real person who pleases”.

She also told the court how the family was struggling to deal with the aftermath of Mr Tester’s death and how difficult it was for them to cope with the fact that he went to work one day and was never revenue.

The judge said it was possible Wenham, 48, of Charlotte Street, Brighton, ‘insisted that the work be done quickly and therefore before safety measures were put in place’ as rain was forecast this week-end.

“There was no safe way for them to get to the roof they had to work on,” he added. “There was also no safe way for them to carry the rolls of felt they needed to lay up to the roof.”

The Argus: Graham Tester was described in court by his daughter as a Graham Tester was described in court by his daughter as a ‘real people pleaser’

Addressing Wenham, the judge said: ‘No safeguards were taken to protect Mr Tester while he was carrying out the most dangerous work.

“The evidence at trial was that falls from heights are the most common cause of death on construction sites.”

The judge also noted that when the main hotel building was examined after Mr Tester’s death, other health and safety deficiencies were discovered, including “unprotected smoke pits, a platform above the stairwell without adequate protection and missing boards on some external scaffolding”. .

The judge added that Wenham knew that when the men arrived there would be no scaffolding or edging in place at the time.

“You hadn’t been given a risk assessment for the job, even though you knew full well you needed one,” he told Wenham. “You knew there was no safe way for the men to get on the roof or work on it once they were there.”

The judge told Spiller, 52, of Fishergate Close, Portslade, that he had taken ‘no precautions to protect your employees when performing the most dangerous work’, adding that he was ‘sure that you did not carry out any proper risk assessment before sending Mr. Tester and Mr. Hills on site”.

In summary, the judge reminded the court that an employer’s obligation to its employees is “onerous” and that the financial penalties it imposed must reflect this responsibility.

In addition to the custodial sentences, Total Contractors, of which Wenham was a director, was fined a total of £210,000 and ordered to pay costs of £30,000, with Spiller’s Southern Asphalt being fined of £120,000 and costs of £20,000.

The building is well known to locals as the site where James Bond author Ian Fleming wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

During the 1900s, a procession of famous guests passed through the hotel, which was a magnet for artists, aristocracy, writers and musicians.

James Bond writer Ian Fleming had a convalescent stint in April 1961 where he conceived Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

In 1999 The Dudley was purchased by newspaper owner Sir Ray Tindle.

Like Fleming, Sir Ray was a vintage car enthusiast and sponsor of the Brighton Veteran Car Rally, driving his beloved Speedwell Dogcart with passengers including the US Ambassador and Cabinet members.

In 2013 the hotel went bankrupt with bank debts of over £9million with KPMG called as receiver.

It was put up for sale in 2015, with planning permission granted to turn the building into luxury apartments.

READ MORE: Construction bosses jailed after Hove worker’s death

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This notice was published: 2022-06-09 04:50:00

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