Pewsey building firm F Dewey Limited has to pay £17,500 in fines, costs and compensation after one of their employees fell through the roof of a building he was trying to demolish.

Magistrates in Devizes heard yesterday that plumber Peter Flippance sustained a broken hip and broken wrist after falling through the roof at the site in River Street, Pewsey, in April last year.

Richard Dewey, the firm’s director, pleaded guilty to failure to follow the terms of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Elizabeth Trzoska, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, told the court that the site was owned by the company and the existing buildings were being demolished to make way for a residential development.

Mr Flippance, who was not trained in demolition, had climbed on a roof made of asbestos sheeting with a roof ladder or crawling boards.

He had just removed some of the roof ridge when timbers below gave way and he fell onto the concrete floor. Mr Flippance was in hospital for several weeks and was off work for 11 months.

Although he is now back at work, he is on light duties only and is likely to undergo more surgery on his wrist.

Miss Trzoska said the company had undertaken no proper risk assessment or safe system of work in place and had made no arrangements for preventing the spread of asbestos dust, which is a dangerous carcinogen.

James Lester, defending, said his client was full of remorse for what had happened and fully accepted the failures and deficiencies which led to Mr Flippance’s injuries.

Mr Lester said Mr Flippance, 60, had been working for the company for over 30 years and had returned to work for them.

He said: “This is the first prosecution of this kind brought against this firm which has been operating since the late 1940s.

“Oral instructions were given to the employees carrying out the work and a tick-box risk assessment was carried out, though my client recognises this was insufficient.

“He did not cut corners to save money. In fact, because of the difficulties being experienced in the building industry at the moment, he undertook the work so he could keep the workers occupied rather than sack them.”

Passing sentence, presiding magistrate Nigel Spinney said: “This was a very serious incident the consequences of which could have been much worse. You should have known better.”

The company was fined £15,000, reduced to £10,000 in recognition of the early guilty plea. The bench also ordered that £5,000 be paid in compensation to Mr Flippance, to be deducted from any civil award.

They were also ordered to pay £7,500 in prosecution costs.

The company was given 28 days to pay.