Contractor convicted of manslaughter after London sofa deaths

A construction firm has been convicted of manslaughter after two workers fell to their deaths while renovating a luxury flat in Knightsbridge, central London.

Martinisation (London) Ltd was found guilty of two charges of corporate manslaughter following the deaths of two Polish employees, Tomasz Procko, 22, and Karol Symanski, 29, in November 2014.

Martin Gutaj, 43, the director of the west London company, was convicted of health and safety violations. Mr Gutaj, who pleaded not guilty, declined to give evidence.

Jurors at the Central Criminal Court were told that the men died during an attempt to install a large sofa on the first floor of the $3.8m Cadogan Square apartment, near the Harrods department store. The sofa was too big to be carried up the stairs, so five workers stood on a balcony to haul it up from the pavement.

Adrian Darbishire, the counsel for the prosecution, told the jury: "As they hauled the sofa up about 6m to the level of the balcony, the workers were hauling against, and leaning over, the balustrade.

"The 130-year-old Victorian cast-iron balustrade gave way and two of the men fell to their deaths on the pavement below. A third was saved only by being grabbed by his colleagues as he began to fall.

"The fact that the men were hauling the sofa up in the dangerous way that they were was the result of a long and unhappy history of neglect of health and safety at the company which employed them. It was an accident but it was an entirely foreseeable and preventable one."

Mr Procko and Mr Symanski were given first aid but both had suffered catastrophic injuries in the fall and were later pronounced dead.

Among the health and safety lapses were a failure to carry out a risk assessment before the attempt to lift the sofa, a failure to identify who was in charge on the site, a lack of health and safety instructions in Polish – the first language of the workers on the site – and a lack of instruction in English on how to lift heavy objects.

The project was behind schedule, and more than $260,000 over budget when the accident happened.

A specialist transport company called Jayhawk had offered to deliver the sofa using an outside elevator for a total cost of £848, however Gutaj, did not accept the quote, writing in an email: "If your delivery guy wants additional 1k that is just not acceptable."

Darbishire said: "For the sake of £848 and a few days Mr Gutaj had changed the plan and refused the offer."

Image: A file photo of Cadogan square, showing the flats’ ornate iron balustrades (Creative Commons)

  • Edited on 23/5/17, thank you for your comments

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  1. Stone sofa? The Telegraph article you quote/ reference has it listed as “an 11 foot sofa, weighing 18 stone” is that what you meant?

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