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Luton firm fined following death of four year old

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The HSE have successfully prosecuted Kristian Childs, t/a KD Childs Stonework last week, following an incident in October 2005, involving the death of a four year old child.  Mr Childs' firm had been subcontracted by Persimmon Homes to fit the fireplace in the new build property. The Green family had lived in the property for approximately two years when tragedy struck. 
Matthew Green, 4, was at home with his family when they heard a loud crash from the lounge. They found their son lying motionless under the 50kg stone lintel mantelpiece, which had detached from the wall and broken into pieces.  The family confirmed that to their knowledge Matthew had never swung or attempted to climb the mantelpiece. 
Following the investigation by the HSE, it came to light that the fireplace had only been held in place by some small patches of mortar, and the organisation confirmed that "every stone used in a fireplace must have a mechanical fixing, such as a steel bracket and screws to hold them together and against the wall".  They went on to say that it was essential to do this, as merely using mortar would not guarantee a secure bond.  Northampton County Court heard that Mr Childs had been aware before the accident that two other fireplaces fitted at other properties had been found to be loose by the homeowners concerned.  The firm was fined £7500  with £2500 costs, following pleading guilty to breaches of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
The Court heard that despite the best efforts of paramedics at the scene, and Matthew being airlifted to hospital, he later died of his injuries. Following the hearing, Matthew's mother, Gail Green said "We urge anyone involved with the installation of fireplaces to learn from what happened to our precious son, and take steps to ensure that they take the time and trouble to fit them properly.  If they don't then lives with continue to be put at risk and Matthew's death will have been in vain".

By Pauline Smith