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Builder Jailed for Fatally Flawed Roof

Thursday, June 12, 2014

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A UK developer will serve a year in prison for supplying used asbestos roofing materials that collapsed, dropping a worker to his death.

Robert Marsh, managing director of R.M. Developments Ltd., Cornwall, pleaded guilty to two charges in the death of Tony Podmore, 55, of Midland, according to a release issued June 4 by the UK's Health & Safety Executive (HSE), the equivalent of U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Family photo via the Birmingham Mail

Tony Podmore is survived by his wife Gail and two adult daughters.

Marsh was also fined £10,000 (about $16,700 USD) and barred for six years from his directorship of the firm.

Podmore died June 8, 2011, 12 days after falling almost 20 feet from a barn roof that collapsed. Marsh had provided the fragile, asbestos-containing materials and hired the self-employed Podmore to build the barn, investigators later found.

On the first day of his trial, Marsh opted to plead guilty to violations of the Health and Safety at Work Act and of Europe's Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) Regulations.

A three-day sentencing hearing was held earlier this month.

'We'll All Take the Fall'

Marsh, of Shropshire, supplied the illegal panels, which cost him nothing, to a farming partnership for about $6,700. After paying for transport, he stood to make a profit of almost $6,300, reports said.

Witnesses later said that after the accident, Marsh tried to persuade them to hide the sheets he had supplied.

"We’ll all take the fall for this,” Marsh told one witness, the Express & Star reported.


Robert Marsh's firm, R.M. Developments Ltd., is a commercial builder.

According to the Birmingham Mail, Marsh told one of Podmore’s daughters that her father had fallen from the roof edge, rather than through the asbestos sheets. He also tried to persuade Podmore’s relatives to not report the incident to the HSE, the report said.

At sentencing, Judge Michael Collum called Marsh's actions “wholly reprehensible” and said he had acted out of  “selfish self-interest” to maximize profit at the expense of health and safety, according to the HSE.

High-Risk Material

HSE inspector Luke Messenger said asbestos-containing materials are a well-known health risk that can lead to fatal illnesses.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, exposure to asbestos increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and non-malignant and pleural disorders. The World Health Organization estimates that 125,000 people around the world die each year due to illnesses related to asbestos.


Materials made from asbestos may cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other diseases.

Messenger cautioned that workers need to be aware of their surroundings, especially when working on roofs or other high places.

"Falls from height are the major cause of workplace fatalities, and measures should always be taken to protect workers when they are working from height," Messenger said.

Family Oriented, Good Worker

Podmore was married and the father of two grown daughters. Podmore's daughter Lucy Butler told the Birmingham Mail that her father had been respected for his work ethic.

Barry Crosby, general manager of Saredon Steel Buildings Ltd., agreed.

"Tony was one of the best steel erectors I have dealt with in my 40 years of working life," Crosby told the news outlet. "He is a very sad loss to the industry.”


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asbestos; Fall protection; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; OSHA; Roofing materials

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