A building firm has been found guilty of safety breaches after a Lowestoft man died when a refrigeration unit fell on him.

Barry Challen, 50, died after suffering critical injuries when a fridge unit fell on him while he and colleagues were moving it at a Co-op store on the island of Guernsey in May 2018.

After a four-day Royal Court trial started last week, a Guernsey building firm was found guilty of failing to ensure adequate health and safety compliance for non-employed persons on a work site.

The company – which formerly traded as RG Falla Ltd – was found unanimously guilty on one count to have breached section 25(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work (General) (Guernsey) Ordinance 1987, as amended.

Hurel Ltd, the new trading name of RG Falla Ltd, was both absent and unrepresented during the trial due to its ongoing liquidation.

Mr Challen was an employee of UK-based firm Trevor Wainwright Installations.

He died days after sustaining injuries when a large and heavy refrigeration unit fell on him while he and colleagues were wheeling it into position.

Wooden ramps and boards which had been placed on the pavement and floor of the shop were uneven and unclear.

A set of wheels on the corner of the fridge clipped an uneven lip and toppled onto Mr Challen near the entrance. 

Judge Catherine Fooks said that it was on the defence to prove it was not reasonably practicable to operate in another way.

The prosecution case was that Hurel, which it said had overall responsibility for the site as the main contractor, and Trevor Wainwright failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate risks at the site for employees and non-employed persons.

Both denied the charges.

The second defendant, Mr Wainwright, was acquitted.

While it did not provide evidence to court or under oath, Hurel Ltd had previously submitted that it wasn’t an employer as it was not contractually involved with or responsible for the delivery and installation of the fridges.

It also didn’t accept effects to people not in its employment, such as Mr Challen. 

The prosecution rejected this, saying the company's control of the site extended their responsibilities beyond contractual considerations.

Mr Wainwright argued that Hurel Ltd was at fault for not ensuring safe access, egress, or an even and clear floor.

No sentencing date has been set as it was agreed that consultations should be completed with the companies’ liquidators.

Words provided courtesy of Bailiwick Express.