Firm fined £125,000 after young plumber Danny Edwards electrocuted
A BUILDING firm responsible for the death of a young plumber who was electrocuted while fitting a washing machine has been fined £125,000.
Birakos Enterprises was also ordered to pay £50,000 costs after being convicted of two health and safety breaches which led to the death of Danny Edwards, 23.
But because the firm has gone into administration since the tragedy five years ago it is unlikely the fine and costs will ever be paid, Gloucester Crown Court heard.
Mr Edwards was installing a washing machine in a flat in Clifton, in March 2009 when he died because the electric socket he plugged it into had been wrongly wired.
This week's delicious £5 5 O'CLOCKTAIL is a refreshing Tequila Sunrise. Available everyday from our Bar for only £5 between 5pm & 7pm.
Terms: £5 cocktail applies to the cocktail of the week.
Contact: 0117 2448281
Valid until: Monday, May 27 2013
The earth wire had been connected to the live socket and the live to the earth.
After yesterday's hearing at Gloucester Crown Court, Mr Edwards' family said they felt cheated by the fact that the penalty may never be paid.
Mr Edwards' girlfriend Cheralyn Williams, who was heavily pregnant with their first child at the time of the tragedy, sat through the trial with Mr Edwards' father Paul. She said they were glad the case had been brought.
She said: "It's been a long, long road and I'm pleased it's all over. Naturally I am annoyed that the company is not going to be punished."
Danny's father said: "We want to thank the Health and Safety Executive. They have done all they could and have been with us every step of the way."
Passing sentence, Judge William Hart said he realised no sentence could make up for the effect of Danny's death on those he loved and those who loved him.
He said: "The combination of errors which led to Danny's death is disturbing indeed.
"There was a substantial gap between what could be considered reasonably practicable in relation to safety at this site and what the company did put in place.
"The defendant company fell far below the standards required of them. This is high-risk work and the message goes out that practices of this sort will not be tolerated.
"However, I understand the order I am about to impose may well never be paid as a result of the company being in administration."
During the trial prosecutor Rupert Lowe said: "This was a very tragic accident at work and the loss of a young man with all the effects you can imagine on his family and his partner. It was an accident which did not need to happen."
The company had denied two charges – failing to ensure Mr Edwards' safety at work, and failing to discharge its duties under the Control of Electricity Regulations.
No one from Birakos Enterprises attended the trial and neither the firm nor the administrators were legally represented.
Mr Lowe told the court that on March 19, 2008 Mr Edwards was working for Birakos, who were converting a building in Percival Road, Clifton into flats.
"He was installing a washing machine next to the sink in Flat 7. He had to adjust the legs of the machine to make it level.
"He had to climb, head-first, into the cupboard under the sink and reach around to adjust the legs. As he did so his head came into contact with the water pipe at the back of the cupboard and his hand came into contact with the casing of the washing machine.
"Immediately that happened he was electrocuted and he died where he was. The reason he was electrocuted was because the washing machine was plugged into a socket which had been wired so that the earth wire was into the live and the live was into the earth.
"As a result the metal casing of the washing machine was live.
"The wiring error in this case was catastrophic. It was an absolutely basic mistake. You would think any electrician's first lesson would be to get the wiring right – it is pretty obvious which is which because they are all colour coded.
"No one was really running this site and there was no supervision of the electricians and no one for the electricians to report to," he said.