Portadown builder and farmer fined and sentenced for worker’s death

Date published: 10 March 2017

Portadown builder Norman McKenzie was sentenced today at Craigavon Crown Court for Health and Safety failings that led to the death of a worker and caused injury to another. The client, Ivan Reilly (farmer) was sentenced at a previous hearing on 3 March 2017.

Scales of justice

Mr McKenzie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was given a 15-month custodial sentence suspended for three years. He was also fined £3,000, while Mr Reilly was fined £1,500.

Today’s judgement follows a joint Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) investigation into the fatal incident which occurred on 20 January 2015 on Mr Reilly’s farm on the Derrycarne Road, Portadown.

Norman McKenzie was hired by Ivan Reilly to assist him in building a 3-bay farm shed at his premises at Derrycarne Road. However, no safety precautions whatsoever were in place to protect workers from falling while sheeting the high roof of the shed, and the situation further exacerbated by the fact that it was raining.

As a result, workers Petyo Hristanov and Millen Dimov both fell from the roof. Tragically, Mr Hristanov died as a result of his fall, while Mr Dimov received minor injuries.

There is important learning from this incident for those who work in the farming and construction industries. The client, Mr Reilly, completely ignored his responsibilities under Health and Safety Law by failing to ensure this work was carried out safely, while the contractor, Mr McKenzie, completely failed to assess the risks associated with this job. Falls while carrying out work at heights is a well known danger and, in this case, could have been easily prevented.

After the sentencing Mrs Linda Murphy, an Inspector with HSENI’s Major Investigation Team said:

“This tragic accident was completely preventable. Work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry and it is crucial that all construction jobs, big or small, have the appropriate health and safety precautions in place.

“Mr Reilly, the farm owner, was advised previously by HSENI regarding safety work at heights and should have been well aware of the risks. As the person commissioning the work, he was required to take reasonable steps to ensure that arrangements were in place to allow work at heights to be carried out safely.”

PSNI Chief Inspector Barney O’Connor added: “This was a joint investigation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland. PSNI will continue to work with partner agencies to keep people safe, including as they work.”

Mr Hristanovs wife said: “My hard working husband and father to our family went to work and never came home. He fell from an unguarded roof and we are still struggling to come to terms with our great loss. As a family we really hope people get the message and be strict with the safety of their employees.”

Information on your legal duties about working at height, as a person commissioning the work (the client), or as a person carrying out the work, is available from our Falls from height topic page: 

If you are asked to work at heights and are concerned about safety measures please call HSENI’s duty Inspector at HSENI’s Information and Advice Helpline on 0800 0320 121 for more information.

Notes to editors: 

For media enquires please contact: HSENI Press Office on 028 9024 3249 or email media@hseni.gov.uk

For out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned. 

  1. Breaches and fines for both parties were as follows:
    • Norman McKenzie:
      • Manslaughter: a 15-month custodial sentence suspended for three years
      • Article 4(1) by virtue of 4(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 - £1,000
      • Regulation 3(1)(a) Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000 - £1,000
      • Regulation 6(3) Work at Height Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005 - £1,000
    • Ivan Reilly:
      • Regulation 9(1) Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007 - £1,500
  2. Almost half of the deaths due to accidents at work in the construction industry are the result of falls from a height. There were 43 fatal accidents on construction sites from 2000 to 2010 in Northern Ireland 20 of which were due to falls from a height. 
  3. Guidance material available to assist in building a farm shed safely include: ‘Managing Health and Safety in Construction – L144’, ‘HSE guidance Health and Safety in Roof Work HSG33’ and HSENI guidance: ‘Building a new farm building or renovating an existing farm building?’
  4. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy.
  5. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland.

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