A landscape gardener from Staffordshire has been hit with a serious punishment after a man he employed was killed on site by a falling gate post.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the case of Leeson Lavender, after it emerged he had died while at work. He had been assisting Eden Maddocks at the time of his demise on a project that saw them installing a large oak post at a house in Keele.
In a bid to move the post into a pre-dug hole, the two men had balanced it on a trailer and were attempting a manoeuvre. As they started to lift the post, the trailer moved and Mr Lavender and the oak structure fell out.
He tumbled to the ground, hit his head on the floor and was then struck by the post. The gardener, who was known in the local area as Spud, later died in hospital as a result of the injuries he sustained.
The HSE took Mr Maddocks to court, where it was found that he had carried out similar work in this way before. It was also concluded that the oak post in this case had been larger and heavier than he had previously been used to.
Mr Maddocks pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was subsequently sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid community service work and six months in prison suspended for a year.
HSE inspector Lindsay Hope said: "[Mr Maddocks] had obviously considered the potential stability issues and had taken some precautions in an attempt to reduce the risks of the post overbalancing. Sadly he didn't do enough and Leeson Lavender paid with his life - a tragic and unnecessary death that could have avoided with better planning and a safer method of work."
The case might provide a reminder to employers in similar sectors that they must protect their staff adequately at all times.