Journalist, Cherry Park

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Cherry Park is an experienced freelance journalist and reporter who specializes in features, news, and news analysis, in print and online. She has written extensively in the areas of health and safety, fire safety, employment, HR, recruitment, rewards, pay and benefits, market research, environment, and metallurgy, and she also conducts research.
March 8, 2013

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Roofer to Pay £21 Million After Factory Fire

A South Wales roofing firm is negotiating with claimants after being ordered to pay more than GB pound 21 million (US$31 million) in damages for its part in a fire that devastated a West Midlands factory.

The High Court in London heard on 25 February that Bridgend roofer Central Roofing (South Wales) had been contracted to refurbish the roof of a factory near Wolverhampton operated by copper tube manufacturer Mueller Europe.

The contractor had erected a suspended “birdcage” scaffold to work on the roof, which was boarded and sheeted with combustible materials and enclosed two suspended gas-powered radiant heaters, used to heat the factory.

When the heaters were turned on in the early morning of 9 November 2008, they set the scaffold alight, sparking a huge fire that caused part of the roof to collapse and triggered massive damage to the fabric and contents of the factory.

BBC News reported that the judge, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith, said the heaters were an “obvious fire hazard” that should have been picked up.

He said that although Mueller should have made sure the enclosed heaters were switched off, Central Roofing bore the primary responsibility to carry out the work safely and to point out the obvious hazard. He noted that there had been three previous incidents when heaters were switched on when they should not have been.

The judge said: “Central continued to take no steps to carry out the works safely when they knew that Mueller was not routinely isolating [the heaters] and the failure to isolate had already caused near misses”.

Negotiations with the claimants

He ruled Central liable to pay Mueller a total of GB pound 21,357,889 in compensation for the damage to the factory, its contents, machinery, and equipment and for the interruption of its business.

According to Construction News, a spokesperson for Central Roofing said: “Central Roofing South Wales has unfortunately had a judgement made against it.

“The company is insured for a substantial portion of the claim and is currently in negotiations with the claimants with a view to retaining the company and all its employees.”

Group managing director Phil Bufton said there was a possible avenue for appeal, depending on how the insurers viewed the proposal put forward.

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Finbar
Finbar
March 12, 2013 6:14 am

It is about time these people were penalised properly for their poor work ethics! Insurance keeps rising because of idiots who fail to do the basic risk assesments and then cause massive damage and cost and expect to walk away from it all. Yes they are insured and yes the insurance will cover most of the costs, but because they were negligent the company itself should bear some cost and then maybe, just maybe they will be more vigilant in the future. they are responsible for their works and have the right to demand anything is shutdown and isolated before any… Read more »

ITs_Hazel
ITs_Hazel
March 13, 2013 2:47 am
Reply to  Finbar

They committed the violations, and now it’s time for they to pay the fines. Like you said, thay have insurance to cover costs so they won’t be coughing up the cash from their own pockets. But it’s good when cases like these result in punishment for the negligence committed. They’re responsible for what they did, so it’s only right they mete out the fines.

Finbar
Finbar
March 13, 2013 5:01 am
Reply to  ITs_Hazel

Well one thing for sure is that they will pay in some way as their insurance risk is now a lot higher and they will pay with increased premiums. Am sure I read in the article that the insurance will only cover some costs and the company has itself got to bear some of the burden! This is only right as owners no doubt make a lot of money and will have to find that money from somewhere. Only downer will be that no doubt they will say they will have to cut jobs to recoup that money. i just… Read more »

batye
batye
April 3, 2013 3:46 am
Reply to  Finbar

sad to hear it.., I do hope they will not get away with it claiming bankruptcy
as in Canada good few years ago we have almost similar case with propane storage Co…after big fire due the workers negligenceInsurance did pay but the Co. get away with it with help of thebankruptcy court…