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Aramex fined after man killed in warehouse roof fall

03 February 2014

A logistics firm has been fined £250,000 after a worker was killed when he fell through a warehouse roof.

Michael Sweet, 48, from Stockport, was cleaning out the guttering at Aramex (UK) Ltd on the Ringway Trading Estate near Manchester Airport on 12 December 2011 when he stepped on a fragile panel and fell to the concrete floor below.

Aramex, a global provider of logistics and transportation solutions, and Mr Sweet’s employer, roofing contractor Gary Edwards, were both prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found no safety measures had been put in place.

Manchester Crown Court heard Aramex had hired Mr Edwards to fix a leak when water began to drip into the warehouse and offices, as he had previously carried out work for the company. He arrived on site with Mr Sweet and they were asked to fix the leak and clean out the guttering.

Later that same day, Mr Sweet fell through the warehouse roof when he stepped on a clear roof panel, designed to let light into the warehouse. He died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

During an interview under caution, Mr Edwards admitted that the only safety equipment he had provided for cleaning the warehouse roof had been a pair of gloves.

Safety measures could have included placing boards over the fragile roof panels, using harnesses, erecting scaffolding or hiring a cherry picker. However, Mr Edwards failed to implement any of these or to carry out a risk assessment for the work.

The HSE investigation found Aramex had also ignored its own health and safety guidelines. The company failed to supervise the work or assess how it would be carried out, despite knowing the roof was fragile.

Aramex (UK) Ltd and Gary Edwards each pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE overhauls work at height guidance

An overhaul of guidance on working at height is being launched today, as part of the Government’s long-term economic plan to abolish or improve outdated or over-complicated regulations which waste businesses’ time and money.

More than a million British businesses and 10 million workers are estimated to carry out jobs involving some form of work at height every year. Falls are one of the biggest causes of death and serious injury at work.


Now the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has overhauled its guidance for such activity, setting out in clear, simple terms what to do and what not to do in the hope of debunking common myths that can confuse and mislead employers. 

 Key changes include:

• Providing simple advice about do’s and don’ts when working at height to ensure people are clear on what the law requires

• Busting some of the persistent myths about health and safety law, such as the banning of ladders when they can still be used

• Offering targeted advice to helping business in different sectors manage serious risks sensibly and proportionately

• Helping workers to be clearer about their own responsibilities for working safely.


Judith Hackitt, Chair of the Health and Safety Executive, said: "It’s important to get working at height right. Falls remain one of the biggest causes of serious workplace injury – with more than 40 people killed and 4,000 suffering major injuries every year.


"We have a sensible set of regulations and have been working with business to improve our guidance – making it simpler and clearer and dispelling some of the persistent myths about what the law requires.


"The result is advice that employers can count on to help them manage their businesses sensibly and proportionately.”

The new guidance is being backed by business. It was produced with the support of the British Retail Consortium, Small Business Trade Association Forum, Trade Unions and the Access Industry Forum.


Janet Nerenberg, health and safety manager at Warburtons, said: "This revised guidance is most welcome, a good and useful hand-out that we can use in-house to support any training. It is a big improvement on previous information and the images in particular are clear and much improved.”


Access the new guidance at: www.hse.gov.uk/falls/wait/index.htm

Read about common work at height myths here: www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/height.htm

Aramex, of Heywood Distribution Park in Heywood, was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000. Gary Edwards, 55, of Silverdale Road in Gatley, received a four-month prison sentence suspended for one year, which means he will be sent to prison if he commits another offence in the next year.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Betley said: "Michael Sweet sadly lost his life because neither Aramex nor Gary Edwards put enough thought into his safety while working on a fragile warehouse roof.

"Mr Edwards had carried out work at the warehouse on several previous occasions and so knew the roof could be dangerous, but he failed to take any action to keep Michael safe.

"Aramex was also aware of the risks but simply left the two men to it, rather than carrying out its own assessment of how the work would be carried out and monitoring what was being done.

"Companies and individuals have a legal duty to ensure the safety of workers they employ or who carry out work for them. If Aramex and Mr Edwards had taken their responsibilities seriously then Michael’s life could have been saved.”

Aramex is listed on the Dubai Financial Market and employs more than 12,300 people in over 353 locations across 60 countries.

In October it announced its financial results for the third quarter of 2013, with revenues in the third quarter of 2013 increased to AED 827 million (£137m), up 9% compared to AED 758 million (£125m) in Q3 2012.

The Handling & Storage Solutions Safer Logistics Campaign

Handling & Storage Solutions has launched the Safer Logistics campaign to promote health and safety awareness in logistics in 2014.

We were inspired to launch the campaign by the Health and Safety Executive encouraging all stakeholders to show leadership and ‘be part of the solution’.

It is vital to push home the message that poor health & safety practices have no place in the modern logistics world.

What you can do

Clear safety first principles are worth repeating.

- If you doubt the safety of a working practice, stop. Talk to your supervisor or manager and agree a safe way of proceeding. Don’t carry on and hope for the best.

- No matter who you are in the management structure or workforce, take responsibility for your safety, don’t assume someone else has taken care of it.