Health+Safety at Work magazine recently reported on the case of the two Polish workers who fell to their deaths from a West End balcony in November 2014, whilst attempting to deliver a heavy sofa into a luxury apartment without using a furniture hoist.

‘A director of a construction firm who refused to pay the £848 hire charge for an external furniture lift has been found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act after two workers fell to their deaths while manhandling a heavy sofa.

Martin Gutaj was director of construction contractor Martinisation (London), which was renovating a luxury flat in London’s Cadogan Square. Tomasz Procko, 22, and Karol Symanski, 29, fell to their deaths from a balcony in November 2014. The men were attempting to haul the sofa up onto the balcony using ropes with only the Victorian railings acting as a barrier, but were killed when the railings gave way.

Martinisation (London) was charged with corporate manslaughter, and director Gutaj with breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, but both entered pleas of not guilty. They were convicted following a jury trial at London’s Old Bailey. They will be sentenced at a later hearing.

The court had previously heard that that on the day of the accident there was a basic failure to identify who was supervising the site. The prosecution also told the court that none of the training documents were in Polish, when the workers did not speak English, suggesting that they were “just for show”.

Procko and Symanski were not provided with a plan, method statement or risk assessment before the task was started, the court heard. By autumn 2014, work on the flat was over budget and behind schedule. The renovation budget had increased from around £650,000 to as much as £920,000.

The sofa delivery company had recommended that an external furniture lift was hired and emailed Gutaj with an estimated budget of £848. The court heard that Gutaj responded with a message saying: “Unfortunately, we do not have time for all that. Please deliver the sofa and we will get it up to the flat.”

Nick Vamos, on behalf of the CPS, said: “Martinisation and its director Martin Gutaj showed an appalling disregard for the safety of their employees, with terrible consequences.

“Sadly, this incident was entirely foreseeable and preventable. Neither was it an isolated breach. The evidence put forward by the prosecution clearly demonstrated to the jury how these tragic deaths were part of a pattern of serious neglect of basic health and safety.

“Our thoughts are with the families of Tomasz and Karol.”

The original story can be found here: https://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/work-at-height/martin-gutaj-guilty