A BUILDING firm has been fined £16,000 after a contractor fractured his spine when a dangerous staircase collapsed.

Bolton Crown Court heard that David Walsh had not been warned that the newel post, supporting the stairway leading to a basement at Valley Mill on Eagley Way, had been severed in order to allow a waterproof membrane to be installed on the floor.

Judge Richard Gioserano was told that there were no warning signs or barrier to prevent anyone, including Mr Walsh, stepping onto the stairs and falling 2.72 metres to the floor below.

Adrian Farrow, prosecuting, told how Keighley-based family building firm Rombalds Builders Ltd, were main contractors for refurbishment of the Valley Mill flats in 2016.

On April 15 Mr Walsh, a contract manager for floor screeding company Cadman, visited the site to examine the work which would be needed in the basement.

"He was shown a safe means of access that was never going to be safe when he required access," said Judge Gioserano.

And when he returned with a colleague on April 26 he was let into the building by a site manager but not told that the staircase, the only access route to the basement, was now dangerous.

"The staircase gave way and Mr Walsh fell seven or eight feet as the steps gave way beneath him, "said Mr Farrow.

"He landed on the base of his back on the floor below."

Mr Walsh fractured three vertebrae, spent four days in hospital and it was three months before he could return to work. The court heard that he has now had to give up playing football.

Rombalds pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching health and safety laws relating to their own employees and others visiting the site.

Mark Balysz, defending, told the court that, had Mr Walsh attended a site induction on the day of the accident he would have been made aware of the dangerous staircase.

He stressed that Rombalds, which has been in existence for 28 years, has an "exemplary" safety record and never been prosecuted before.

Judge Gioserano fined the firm £16,000 and ordered that they should also pay £16,561.50 in costs for the prosecution, brought by the Health and Safety Executive.

"It happened, at least in part, because the door to the basement was opened without any warning sign or barrier being put in place — simple things which could have been done," he said.

"Employees may have known about it, but a simple warning sign or barrier of some kind would have addressed entirely the risk of a non-employee, who was expected to arrive that day, just pressing on and using the staircase."

Following the sentencing HSE inspector Seve Gomez-Aspron said: “The incident occurred due to part of a stair case into a cellar being removed, leaving it structurally dangerous. When workers then walked down the staircase, it collapsed into the cellar resulting in serious injuries. 

“These injuries could have been avoided by properly planning the work and managing the risk on site, combined with making the site secure.

“Almost 50 per cent of fatalities in the construction industry are as a result of falling from height, so it’s important the risks are managed properly and why we take action when failings are found.”