'No amount of money will ever bring him home': Mum 'let down by justice system' as firm fined £8,000 after son's building site death

Niall McCormack dead when he was hit on the head by falling material at workNiall McCormack dead when he was hit on the head by falling material at work
Niall McCormack dead when he was hit on the head by falling material at work
A mum says the justice system has let her down after a firm was fined just £8,000 over her son’s death on a building site.

Teresa Jackson’s son Niall McCormack, who was from Rothwell, was 22 when he was fatally injured at work in Cambridgeshire.

He was at a new-build site on October 30, 2019, when he was struck on the head by falling material after wind caught a spandrel panel which had been put up the day before, temporarily supported by timber restraints.

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An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found carpentry firm KM Carpentry Contractors Limited had breached health and safety requirements and last month they were fined at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court – but Teresa says she was disappointed by the punishment.

She said: “The justice system has got to change. I’ve always been a great believer that if a judge says that’s it then that’s it because they’re in that position for a reason. But this is very disappointing – £8,000 is not a punishment to put on actions which cost Niall’s life.”

Niall, a former Montsaye Academy pupil and Rothwell Aztecs footballer, was working for KM Carpentry Contractors Limited installing roof trusses in Alconbury Weald when the tragic incident took place. Both the truss packs and party wall spandrel panel had been lifted by crane onto a pair of semi-detached properties the day before the incident with temporary support.

Niall was working with another carpenter to remove trusses from the pack to then spread and install across the building. But as the two carpenters were in the process of spreading, the wind caught a spandrel panel, pushing it against the remaining trusses in the pack. Both the truss pack and spandrel panel fell into the work area and Niall was struck by the falling material, suffering a fatal head injury.

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An investigation by the HSE found that KM Carpentry Contractors Limited had failed to identify the risk of wind loading and the effect this could have on the stability of the spandrel panel prior to being secured in place. The method statement for the installation of the spandrel panels included lifting and placing them on the roof only after the roof trusses had been installed and permanently secured. This could not be followed as they had both been placed on the roof at the same time as the roof trusses the day before.

KM Carpentry Contractors Limited, of High Street in Higham Ferrers, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act and was ordered to pay £6,974 in costs as well as the fine.

But Cheaney worker Teresa, 53, said: “I feel let down by the judicial system as the fine given out by the court was menial compared to the loss and hurt felt by Niall's sisters, dad and myself.”

A family statement released by the HSE said: “The whole family has been badly affected by Niall’s loss. One of his friends is going to Australia and we can’t help thinking Niall should be here and going with him. Niall has lost the ability to grow up and have children of his own. He won’t be getting married and all the things you do as families. He’s missed out on so much, for what, going to work? No-one should go to work and not come back.”

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Teresa added that they’ve not been able to hold Niall’s inquest yet because of the prosecution. She said: “No amount of money will ever bring Niall home to us and that is something we will have to live with.”

After the hearing, HSE inspector Jenny Morris said: “Our thoughts are with the family of Niall, a 22-year-old who was just setting out on his career in the construction industry. This case highlights the importance of identifying the risks associated with a work activity and ensuring a safe system of work is devised and then followed.”