An architect has been fined €2,500 for breaching health and safety laws in connection with a fatal workplace accident during renovations at his south Dublin home.
Bryan O’Rourke pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court to two offences under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act following the workplace death of Andezej Buraczewski on October 24, 2016 at his house at Highfield Road, in Rathgar.
The retired architect was prosecuted for failing to appoint a competent project supervisor for the design process and construction work carried out at his house.
The Director of Public Prosecutions directed that Mr O’Rourke should be tried at District Court level. Co-defendants face more serious charges.
Judge Halpin accepted jurisdiction and noted Mr O’Rourke was pleading guilty.
Frank Kerins, an inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), told the court a building company had been retained by Mr O’Rourke.
Internal work was completed and the contractor commenced external work and allegedly asked for scaffolding to be raised to fourth-floor level.
On October 24, another contractor arrived to work on gutters. Two workers, including Andezej Buraczewski, began working on the fourth level of the scaffolding.
Mr Buraczewski fell and was pronounced dead. Part of the fourth-floor level guard rail had fallen on the ground and “part of it was hanging loose”.
The HSA inspector agreed with prosecution counsel Sinead McMullen that Mr O’Rourke had a duty to appoint a project supervisor and failed to do so.
He also agreed with her that an expert carried out an examination for the HSA and found the scaffolding was unsafe and not fit for purpose, and no one should have been on the fourth level.
The maximum penalty at district court level for the offence was €5,000, Judge Anthony Halpin was told.
The HSA witness also agreed with defence counsel Eoghan Cole that there was clear co-operation from his client who would be available as a prosecution witness.
Other defendants face facing circuit court trial on more serious charges connected to the death of Mr Buraczewski, the court was told.
The barrister put it the HSA inspector that if Mr O’Rourke made the appointment of a project supervisor in writing he would have been in compliance with the regulations and he would not have been before the court. The contractor he used would have been eligible for that role.
“Yes, however, to make an appointment in writing, it focuses one’s attention, the person appointed has to take responsibility,” Mr Kerins answered.
He said “yes” when asked by the judge if the culpability of Mr O’Rourke was lesser than others working on the site. As a result of that the DPP had decided his case could be dealt with at District Court level.
Judge Halpin said Mr O’Rourke failed to make the appointment in writing which was necessary under the health and safety legislation to ensure someone was controlling and managing work on site to safeguard employees’ work.
In mitigation, Mr Cole said Mr O’Rourke acknowledged the profound loss and distress suffered by Mr Buraczewski’s family. He was a retired professional and had co-operated with the authorities.
Judge Halpin said he echoed sympathies expressed by the accused to the family of the deceased man.
Mr Cole asked the judge to note his client was not blind to his responsibility but did not do so in writing. Pleading for his client to be spared a conviction, he submitted that Mr O’Rourke was blameless and did not have a moral or legal culpability for the death of Mr Buraczewski.
He was also willing to contribute toward prosecution costs, counsel said.
Describing the case as tragic, Judge Halpin said it was a case where a professional did know the regulations but felt they not apply in this particular instance. Mr Buraczewski lost his life so his hands were tied in respect of recording a conviction, he said.
One charge was taken into consideration and he imposed a fine of €2,500 and ordered Mr O’Rourke, who was not called to give evidence, to pay €2,000 plus VAT in prosecution costs.