14 April 2023

Firm fined £800,000 after boy died falling down manhole on construction site

14 April 2023

A company has been fined £800,000 for safety failures which led to the death of a 10-year-old boy.

Shea Ryan died after falling down a manhole on a construction site in Drumchapel, Glasgow.

The Crown Office said Glasgow Sheriff Court was told that Shea, along with other children, got into the site through an insecure fence on July 16, 2020.

He was able to access a manhole and begin to climb down. He slipped and fell more than six metres to the bottom of the manhole, sustaining fatal injuries.

RJ McLeod (Contractors) Limited was fined at the court on Friday, having previously pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety laws.

The company was also ordered to pay a £60,000 victim surcharge.

An investigation by Police Scotland and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found insufficient measures had been taken to prevent children gaining access to the construction site.

Several measures to increase safety have since been put in place.

In a statement released through legal firm Digby Brown, Shea’s mother Joanne Ferguson said: “I am glad RJ McLeod finally admitted guilt.

“My son is not here and that destroys me every day.

“That totally avoidable accident has ruined my life and my kids’ lives. I don’t even feel human anymore at times because of the grief.

“I just hope this makes them consider site safety everywhere – not just for RJ McLeod but for companies everywhere because the safety of these places is so important.”

She thanked the prosecution and emergency services as well as her friends and family, and added Shea is “missed every second of every day”.

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) said a fatal accident inquiry will be held into Shea’s death.

Speaking after the sentencing, Debbie Carroll, who leads on health and safety investigations at COPFS, said: “The untimely death of child is particularly tragic, and our thoughts are with Shea’s family as they continue to deal with the pain they have suffered following his death.

“His death could have been prevented had RJ McLeod (Contractors) Limited put in place suitable and sufficient measures to manage the risk of children accessing the site.

“This prosecution should remind duty holders that a failure to manage and implement effective measures can have fatal consequences and they will be held accountable for this failure.

“It is important that any learning, to help prevent deaths in a similar situation, is put in the public domain and there will be a fatal accident inquiry into the full circumstances of Shea’s death in due course.”

HSE principal inspector Graeme McMinn said: “Shea should never have been able to get on to and play on that site.

“The security measures should have taken account of the adjacent children’s playpark and the likelihood of children trying to gain access.”

He said the construction industry must do everything it can to keep children out of construction sites and “away from danger to prevent a tragedy such as this happening again”.

A spokesperson for RJ McLeod (Contractors) Limited said the firm “fully accepts the outcome and ruling of the court”.

They added: “We extend our condolences to the family of Shea Ryan.

“We have carried out a comprehensive review of the event and have taken action to protect against the risk of a re-occurrence.

“We fully co-operated and engaged with the investigating authorities and note that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service explained in court the actions we took immediately following the incident.

“Safety is always our top priority and site safety updates are implemented across the business on an ongoing basis.”

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