Builder jailed after chimney fall death

Nigel Parker was sentenced to two years in prison at Leeds Crown Court.
Nigel Parker was sentenced to two years in prison at Leeds Crown Court.

A builder whose negligence led to the death of one of his labourers, has been sentenced at Leeds Crown Court.

Nigel Parker, 56, “cut corners” to save money and time and tried to deny the extent of a demolition job in an attempt to absolve himself of blame, the court heard.

Daniel Hough, 23, was killed in July 2013 when a chimney weighing around 1.4 tonnes collapsed on him as he worked at a property in Batley.

The court heard that Mr Hough was hired as an emergency labourer for the day when Parker found himself short-staffed for a job at 18 Thorncliffe Estate, despite having no construction qualifications.

The prosecution said he was: “An inexperienced man, who could not have been aware of the dangers he faced.”

Mr Parker failed to arrange scaffolding that would support the chimney, which would have cost him £389.

“Engineers who inspected the work could find no valid reason why the work was being carried out in the way that it was. Indeed it is unclear why Mr Parker carried the work out in the way that he did. But there was indeed a cutting of corners in an attempt save money and time.”

In texts to his girlfriend Michelle Bedford, just minutes before his death, Mr Hough told her that he was “enjoying the work”, although he subsequently told her “It’s hard though.”

In police interviews Parker claimed that the vast majority of demolition work to the chimney had been completed the day before, and said that Hough had only been employed to sweep up claiming that “He must have been a bit too eager.”

However, the prosecution said that the purchase of electric drills earlier in the day to work on the chimney, proved this was a lie.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Andrew Denison said: “This was a tragic incident that could have been easily avoided. Mr Parker was responsible for multiple and serious failings and reckless breaches of the law.

“The dangerous methods he used to remove the chimney created a serious and foreseeable risk of death or serious injury. He started removing the chimney part way up in the first floor bedroom and had no control measures in place to prevent the chimney collapsing.

“Daniel Hough was only 23 and an inexperienced construction worker. Mr Parker had never met him until the day of this incident but left him working unsupervised with an unstable structure while he visited another site.

“In addition he did not ensure the residents had moved out before work on the removal of the chimney began, putting all their lives in danger.

“Although Mr Parker had brought suitable acrow props to the house to support the chimney during demolition, he chose not to use them, again increasing the serious risk to life.

“There was a clear and obvious risk of death to Mr Hough which Mr Parker simply ignored.

“The clear and obviously safe way to remove a free-standing chimney is to begin at the top and work downwards. In that way, the foundations and lower part of the chimney structure are always in a position to support the structures above. Beginning half way up means that, once a substantial amount of the chimney is removed, the upper part of the chimney is left unsupported and liable to collapse at any time. The amount of masonry in the chimney structure above the first floor bedroom level here was very substantial and utterly lethal to anyone below it.”