Scaffolding company fined £160,000 after employee fatally electrocuted

A scaffolding company whose failings resulted in the death of an employee who was electrocuted have been fined £160,000.

Martin Tilby, 42, of Nantymoel, was employed by Bridgend -based ASL Access Scaffolding Ltd when he was killed on May 17, 2016, while carrying out work for the company.

The deceased was in charge of crane and was moving fencing in Bonvilston, Vale of Glamorgan, when the jib of the crane came into contact with overhead power lines. After contact was made Mr Tilby was electrocuted and died at the scene.

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Managing director Anthony Richards, on behalf of ASL Access, denied being responsible for causing Mr Tilby’s death but the company was found guilty of an employer breaching general duty to employee and contravention of a health safety regulation following a trial at Cardiff Crown Court.

During a sentencing hearing on Wednesday Mr Tilby’s brother James Tilby read out a victim personal statement on behalf of the deceased’s partner Emma Lewis. She said: “On May 17, 2016, our lives changed forever. Martin wasn’t just an employee – he was a family man who would go above and beyond to help anyone and would give his last.

“Martin only got to meet two grandchildren who were both only one year old at the time. Each new grandchild born is a blessing but it’s also a sad time as Martin isn’t here and there’s only photos and memories as they grow up.

“Martin enjoyed fishing and was also part of a biker club. Martin is loved and missed every day by us all and our lives will never be the same again.”

Summarising the case Judge Michael Fitton QC said Mr Richards gave verbal instructions to Mr Tilby and his colleague Richard Davies to move heavy fencing and gates from the company yard in Bridgend to a field behind Tudor Lodge in Bonvilston.

When the two men had loaded a lorry and driven to the location Mr Tilby instructed Mr Davies to park the lorry next to more building material situated underneath three power lines.

Mr Tilby operated a crane to remove the fencing from the lorry, with Mr Davies loading and unloading the items, and the two successfully unloaded one quantity of fencing but tragedy struck during the second load.

Judge Fitton said: “During the second stage of unloading the crane jib was raised high above the vehicle and came into contact with an overhead power line. The risk of that taking place was perfectly foreseeable by anyone aware of the length of the crane jib being greater than the power lines.

“Such contact taking place meant men in or by the vehicle may be electrocuted. The consequence of contact that took place was Martin Tilby was electrocuted and tragically died there at the scene.”

An inquest into Mr Tilby’s death in 2017 concluded his death was a result of an accident.

During the trial it was argued on behalf of ASL Access that Mr Tilby and Mr Davies were “aware of the dangers” and “well-acquainted” with the field so should have known not to park near power lines. It was also claimed they had “disobeyed” Mr Richards’ instructions.

But this was rejected by the jury who found the company criminally responsible for causing Mr Tilby’s death.

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In mitigation Aled Watkins said the company extended it’s “sincere apologies and condolences” to the the deceased’s family and friends and described him as a “good worker and a good man”.

Mr Watkins said the company went into liquidation in 2017 and has neither “asset or monies” to its name having previously recorded a turnover of around £4m in 2015.

Judge Fitton added: “At the heart and centre of the case I want to say this about the loss of Martin Tilby’s life at the age of just 42 – a needless and unnecessary death. A tragedy in human and every day terms which will affect everyone touched by this sad case.

“Nothing I can do or say can measure or quantify the loss to the family and loved ones of Martin Tilby. All the criminal justice system can do is conduct its own thorough investigation in order to do justice to all involved.”

ASL Access was fined a total of £160,000 and ordered to pay courts costs of £45,000.

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