Businessman jailed after asbestos roof death

A businessman has been jailed for 12 months after his company illegally supplied roofing panels containing asbestos, which were so fragile that a construction worker fell through one of them and later died.

Company director Robert Marsh’s offences came to light after a 56-year-old construction worker from South Staffordshire, who was roofing a barn using the panels, fell through the fragile material.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that 64-year-old Marsh, sole director of RM Developments (2005) Ltd of Newport, had supplied pre-used roofing sheets containing white asbestos to a farming partnership building a barn in Frankley, Worcestershire. During a three-day hearing at Worcester Crown Court it was heard that after Marsh supplied the roofing sheets, the partnership hired steelworker Tony Podmore to use the materials to build the barn.

But during the final phase of its construction on June 8, 2011, Mr Podmore, of Calf Heath, near Wolverhampton, fell through the fragile asbestos cement roof sheets, landing on the concrete floor more than six metres below. He later died of his injuries in hospital.

The farm partnership had agreed to pay £4,000 for what they thought would be substantial roofing material.

However Marsh supplied poor quality, second-hand roof panels that had cost him nothing.

As he had paid just £250 for transport, he stood to make a profit of £3,750 on the roof alone.

The court was told that after the fall, Marsh tried to persuade witnesses to hide the sheets that he had supplied telling one: “We’ll all take the fall for this.”

He also told Mr Podmore’s daughter that her father had fallen from the roof edge rather than through the fragile roof sheets and later tried to persuade Mr Podmore’s relatives not to report the incident to the HSE.

Marsh, of Station Road, Hornet, near Market Drayton, changed his plea to guilty on the first day of his trial to a health and safety charge and a charge relating to the safety of using white asbestos.

As well as the 12-month prison sentence he was disqualified from being a director for six years and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Cullum said Mr Marsh’s actions were ‘wholly reprehensible’ adding that he acted out of ‘selfish self-interest’ to maximise profit at the expense of health and safety.