Apr 17, 2024

Firm's £550k fine slashed after death of worker at Bearsden station

A £550,000 fine handed to a construction company after the "avoidable death" of an employee at Bearsden Railway Station has been slashed.

Matthew Mason, 20, was installing a PA system at the travel hub in June 2018 when he fell from a ladder and was impaled on metal piping, causing fatal injuries that saw him pronounced dead at the scene.

Sheffield-based Linbrooke Services Limited was hit with a six-figure penalty after being convicted of a number of failings following a trial at Dumbarton Sheriff Court in May – but has now had this reduced by £150,000 after a successful appeal.

The firm argued at a High Court hearing that Mr Mason had contributed to the accident by using a "shortcut" cabling method and by placing the piece of apparatus that he fell on close to the ladder he was using, claims that subsequently were dismissed by the appeal judges.

Police were called after the tragic accident (Image: Newsquest)

Solicitors also claimed that the sheriff who had overseen the original trial had been wrong to class Linbrooke as a "large company" when looking at sentencing guidelines, despite it boasting a turnover of almost £50m during the three years prior to March 2021. This was argument also thrown out.

READ MORE: Company fined after man's tragic death

Finally, lawyers for the firm said the sheriff had wrongly calculated his final harm assessment and as such started at too high a figure. This was supported by appeal judges, who said the £550,000 penalty was "disproportionate in the circumstances" and cut it to £400,000.

The hearing was told that the firm continues to acknowledge the accident resulted in the "terrible death" of a very young man, and heard that bosses had built a memorial wall in Mr Mason’s honour and made substantial contractual death in service payments.

Linbrooke’s legal representatives added that it continued to enjoy "good relations" with the deceased’s family and insisted that – even though it was within the court’s powers to do so – no reduction should be made to the £200,000 sum it had been told to pay the time-served electrician’s family for the failings that led to his tragic death.

Mr Mason was trying to free cabling that had become stuck when he fell backwards from a step ladder and was impaled on a section of piping, which was being used as the handle on a cable drum.

In the original 14-day trial, prosecutors argued the firm had failed to assess risks and put in place a safe system of work and it was found that the company failed to identify the risks of pulling cabling through a conduit at height, despite previously having been alerted to the issues by a sub-contractor.

Stepladders were also identified as being unsuitable for Mr Mason's work, and the court heard there were insufficient measures put in place to prevent a fall and clear the surrounding area of hazards.

The tragic scene (Image: Crown Office)

Debbie Carroll, head of the health and safety investigations team at the COPFS, said at the time: "Mr Mason lost his life in circumstances which were foreseeable and avoidable.

"His death could have been prevented had Linbrooke Services Limited put in place appropriate planning, supervision and protective measures to manage the risk of working at height."

She said there needed to be an increased recognition and rigour within the industry to address the risks associated with stepladders.

Ms Carroll added: "This prosecution should remind duty holders that a failure to fulfil their obligations can have fatal consequences and they will be held accountable for this failure."

Linbrooke said at the time that its "sympathies remain with Mr Mason’s family" but declined to comment on the appeal when approached by the Glasgow Times.

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