Builder is fined after man broke back

Robin Atherton

Robin Atherton

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A BUILDER who failed to fit a handrail at a customer’s home in Sheffield has been ordered to pay thousands of pounds – after the householder plunged nearly 10ft down a staircase and broke his back.

Michael Hall, aged 47, suffered a massive bleed on his brain and had to learn again to walk after falling on to a tiled floor at his home in Dobcroft Road, Millhouses.

City magistrates heard self-employed builder Robin Atherton had been hired to put up an extension and carry out refurbishments for Mr Hall and his wife, Sally, which included fitting a new oak staircase.

But three weeks after the couple moved in, and months after the work began, Atherton, aged 46, still hadn’t installed a handrail on the stairs, leading to Mr Hall’s near-fatal fall.

District Judge John Browne ordered Atherton, of Jordanthorpe View, to pay a £5,000 fine, plus £4,000 costs.

The judge told the court the builder, who trades under the name Mack Construction, had caused ‘an obvious risk to the health and safety of others’.

“Mr Atherton should have fitted a temporary handrail at the very least. It was a significant, substantial fall and Mr Hall received very serious injuries,” he said.

“Most people would know from their own intuitive sense there was a risk of danger.”

Nick de la Poer, prosecuting, told the court Atherton started working at Dobcroft Road in December 2009 and expected to finish in three months.

But progress was slow and the Halls moved into the house at the start of the following June.

“On erecting the staircase, the defendant didn’t install a handrail or balustrade on any part of the staircase itself,” said Mr de la Poer.

Mr Hall, who runs a car dealership, returned home from work following a social gathering on June 23, and at around 7.30pm went upstairs to use the toilet.

He fell as he came back down the steps. Mr Hall suffered a brain haemorrhage and broke his back and ribs. A piece of his skull needed to be removed so doctors could operate.

He spent three months in hospital and said in a victim statement: “I find every day a struggle.”

Neil Cameron, defending, said Atherton, a married dad-of-two, had a good safety record.

“Mr Atherton understood Mr Hall preferred there not to be a handrail fitted,” he added.

Atherton, who reported the accident, admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Health and Safety Inspector Medani Close said Mr Hall was ‘lucky to survive’, adding: “It’s a vivid and sad reminder that unnecessary risks are taken far too often in construction.”