Category Archives: Construction Accidents

Darlington Company Fined After Failing to Disclose Vital Safety Information To Construction Workers

Northgate Vehicle Sales Ltd, a Darlington company, has been fined fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £6,123.55 costs by Darlington Magistrates’ Court after a 41-year-old construction worker struck a buried electricity cable and sustained severe burn injuries to his face, neck and arms. The worker had been installing metal fencing while refurbishing the company’s car park when the incident occurred on 10 November 2010.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation following the incident and discovered that the company had not provided the construction workers with important information about existing hazards such as buried electricity cables. To install this metal fencing it was necessary for the construction workers to dig holes in the ground for the purpose of inserting the base of each fence post. Before this was carried out, the injured worker had been told that there were no buried electric cables.

As the worker was using ground breaker, the tip of it cut through an 11kV cable that was buried 80cm underground. This then caused a short circuit; at least one million watts of energy were discharged which evaporated the tip of the breaker. A cloud of flame and molten metal was created by this and this is how the worker suffered his burns.

Jonathan Wills, a HSE Inspector, had this to say following the incident’s court hearing –

“The injuries sustained by the worker could have easily resulted in him losing his life. He suffered severe burns and is still recovering from those injuries following an incident that could have been avoided had Northgate Vehicle Sales Ltd requested service plans and given them to those carrying out the construction work.

“The risk of striking underground cables is well known throughout the construction industry and the law says you must take precautions to avoid danger.

“There is a wealth of guidance available for contractors and the clients for whom the work is being carried out to help them manage the risks effectively.”

The latest figures show that seven people died as a result of contact with electricity or electrical discharge in the workplace in Great Britain in 2010/11 and 88 suffered a major injury.

Demolition Company Fined for Unsafe Work Site

Total Demolition UK has been ordered to pays fines of 5,000 with £2,968 costs after the lives of numerous construction workers were put at risk during the demolition of an old office block in Liverpool on 6 August 2012. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector immediately issued a Prohibition Notice which ordered the company to cease work at the site until there had been proper safety measures implemented to prevent workers from falling from a height.

The HSE inspector visited the site when they were informed that the work being carried out by the firm appeared to be unsafe. Upon arriving, it was clear that much of the building had already been demolished above the second floor. There were two workers who were throwing waste to the ground as they stood next to the edge of where a wall had been removed on the second floor. They were climbing over rubble while there was nothing to prevent them from falling if they lost their footing.

HSE Inspector Jacqueline Western stated –

“When I arrived at the site, it was immediately obvious that workers were in danger of being seriously injured if they fell from the building.

“Two of the employees were throwing waste materials from the edge of the second floor so could easily have fallen if they had tripped over the rubble.

“The company installed a handrail around the open edge of the building after receiving the Prohibition Notice, but if that handrail had been in place at the time of my visit then lives would not have been put at risk.”

Contractor ordered to Pay Fines After Worker Loses Fingers

Woodland Environmental Ltd, a contractor located on Hatch Pond Road, Poole in Dorset, has been ordered to pay fines by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for safety failings following an incident where a lorry driver sustained a severe hand injury while he was utilising equipment for wheel cleaning that was unsafe on a construction site near A1 Barnet By-Pass on 22 July 2010. The driver ended up losing his entire index finger, half of his middle finger and severed the end of his ring finger on his right hand in the incident which occurred at a golf driving range that was being renovated. Reattaching his lost fingers was not possible and he has been left with lifelong injury.

The driver was trying to use a wheel spinner, which is supposed to remove mud and debris from a vehicle’s wheels before driving again. However, the construction site’s equipment was in poor working order and had been adapted; this subsequently forced drivers to use equipment in an unsafe manner.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the incident and found that a rope was held taut in order to keep a brake lever in place. When the driver tried to release the rope it got stuck and severed his fingers. This rope had been attached to the brake lever for numerous months despite the fact that it was not supposed to be there. The condition of the wheel spinner was the responsibility of Woodland Environmental, but their management systems for monitoring equipment and procedures proved inadequate.

Woodland Environmental Ltd pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and was ordered to pay a fine of £5,000 and £8,833 in costs

After the hearing,Stephron Baker Holmes, a HSE Inspector, said that the permanent injuries that the lorry driver sustained were entirely preventable. He then went on to say:

“Those who provide work equipment need to take effective steps to ensure that it continues to function properly, and to ensure that it is not subject to clumsy, make-do adaptations – as was the case here.

Blacburn Construction Firm Fined for Basic Health and Safety Failings

Hall Isherwood Ltd, a Blackburn firm, has been fined by South Ribble Magistrates’ Court after work was carried out on a primary school roof without the implementation of basic safety measures on 31 January. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector was walking past the Clayton le Woods Primary School, near Chorley, when he saw that four men were carrying out work on the roof.

The men had been employed for painting work and replacing slates on one side of a sloping roof at the school on Back Lane in Clayton le Woods.  The only way to access the roof was with an unsecured ladder. Furthermore, there was no safety equipment being used, not even scaffolding to stop any of the men from falling from a height and potentially sustaining a serious injury, even though one of the men was working close to the edge of the roof – next to a potential drop of fifteen feet.

Straight away a Prohibition Notice was served by the inspector and the men were ordered to cease working on the roof until the proper safety measures were implemented. Hall Isherwood Ltd was prosecuted by the HSE for two violations of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The company was then ordered to pay fines of £750 in addition to £1,581 in prosecution costs.

HSE Inspector Anthony Polec stated following the hearing –

“This was a large project taking place over several days. Scaffolding or other safety equipment should therefore have been used to ensure the work could be carried out safely.

“As the principal contractor on the site, Hall Isherwood was responsible for making sure lives weren’t put at risk. However, it allowed the workers to use an unstable ladder to reach the roof and there were no safety measures in place once they were on top of the building.

“Falls from height are responsible for several deaths on UK construction sites every year and it’s only luck that no one was injured in this instance.”

Worker Injured Physically and Psychologically after Fall from Height

Somerset construction company, A.R. Berry Design and Build Ltd, has been £5000 and ordered to pay £8000 in costs by Westminster Magistrates’ Court for an incident where a 28-year-old-worker fell off a roof he was working on in south-west London on 18 January 2011. At the time, the worker, Wayne Bird, had been working building on the Radius Park in Feltham, cleaning dead leaves from the gulleys. The fall occurred when Mr Bird stepped on a fragile skylight and it subsequently broke. He then fell six metres, landing on the concrete floor below.

An investigation was conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who then prosecuted A.R Berry for the company’s failure in keeping their employees safe. Mr Bird sustained numerous injuries, including fractures and damaged tendons in his left knee and right arm, a broken nose and the loss of several teeth. He has lost the ability to straighten his right arm or turn his elbow. He is still receiving medical treatment in addition to treatment for the psychological impact the fall has had on him as a consequence. He has been rendered unable to work because of the incident.

The HSE’s investigation discovered that the company did not adequately plan the work that was being carried out and also failed to provide training to their employees who worked at a height. The roof lacked edge protection and there were no harness provided to workers. A.R. Berry Design and Build Ltd admitted guilt to violating Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Zahir Agha, said that are many steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of falling from a height present in working in construction and the fact that A.R. Berry Design and Build did not implement any of these safety measures has ruined a young man’s life. He then added –

“By planning the work properly, giving their workers sufficient training and monitoring activity, this fall could have been prevented. A.R. Berry should have ensured staff had the right personal protective equipment and been trained in its use.

“There is a much guidance available on working at height and support for firms to assess risks and safely plan work.

Six Consturction Sites Closed after HSE Safety Checks

Construction works at six sites in Bradford has been ordered to cease due to health and safety breaches found by a Health and Safety Executive investigation carried out in relation to an initiative focusing on the safety of the construction industry. In the first week of September 61 sites in West and South Yorkshire were investigated. Although most had adequate health and safety measures in place, six small construction sites in Bradford district failed to live up to these standards.

Three of the sites were served HSE Prohibition Notices by HSE inspectors when they discovered that the lives of the workers were being put at risk due to unsafe work practices, poorly planned execution of work and inadequate scaffolding measures. The remaining three buildings sites were served notices for other matters related to safety. This HSE campaign for building site inspection was carried out in response to the fact that death from a height is a continuous occurrence in this industry. 49 workers died on UK construction sites in the last year and falling from height is the most common cause of death.

Principal Inspector for construction in the Yorkshire region for the HSE, David Stewart, had this to say on the matter –

“Whilst the initiative was primarily to raise awareness of the problem of unsafe working practices, it is of concern that work at height was being undertaken in a dangerous manner on three sites.

“Straightforward practical precautions are well known in the industry. Safe access equipment is readily available for purchase or hire and there is no excuse for workers, and the self employed, to put themselves in a position of danger when working at height.

“There was a marginal, though still welcome, improvement for this inspection activity on previous ones in terms of the ratio of good to poor performances but there is no reason to be complacent.

“HSE will continue to maintain a strong enforcement profile where there is blatant disregard to safe working practice.”

Three Companies fined for the Fall of Two Construction Workers

Three companies have been fined £232,000 in fines and costs by Exeter Crown Court after a platform that two employees of were working on in an Exeter building site collapsed and fell down a lift shaft for four storeys, causing them to sustain severe injuries in February 2008. The incident occurred in a site where new student accommodation is being built at what used to be the Elmfield Nursery in New North Road.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the case to the attention of the court. Cowlin Construction Ltd ordered to pay £85,000 in fines and £20,000 in costs by the court . Prestoplan Ltd, ordered to pay £50,000 and £20,000 towards costs and Somerset Carpenters Ltd, the labourer suppliers, ordered to pay £35,000 fines with £22,000 costs.

Somerset Carpenters had previously been served with a prohibition notice by the HSE after they inspected the site. This should have put a halt to work at the construction site until preventative measures had been put in place to stop workers from potentially falling down the lift shaft. Following this, a wooden platform was built over the shaft but a fortnight later it collapsed and caused Ricki Slocombe (35) and Matthew Blackmore (29), both from Bridgwater, to fall to the bottom floor.

Mr Blackmore broke his back and Mr Slocombe broke both his legs and was forced to use a wheelchair for several months and he has been unable to work since this incident occurred.

HSE inspector, Simon Chilcott said that this terrifying accident could have easily led to the deaths of the two men. He added –

“Contractors and employers must make sure they have taken all reasonable measures to provide a safe environment for workers to work in and that any temporary structures are secure.”

Cheltenham Retailer and Contractor Prosecuted after Asbestos Incident

Cheltenham contractor, Simon Cooper, and retailer, Hutchinson HiFi and Vision Ltd, have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an incident where a construction worker was exposed to asbestos while working on a refurbishment project. Simon Cooper was employed by Hutchinson HiFi and Vision Ltd in February 2010 to refurbish an empty shop unit in Cheltenham High Street, which involved replacing a suspended ceiling.

Simon Cooper did not make sure that an asbestos survey was carried out before refurbishments began.  Resultantly, the construction site workers, including Matthew Thompson 28, from Cheltenham, were forced to remove 85m of asbestos insulating board over two days without the required controls or any sufficient protection.

It was also found that Hutchinson HiFi and Vision Ltd did not inform Mr Cooper about the asbestos in the building. A demolition and refurbishment survey should have been carried piror out and the results made provided to Mr Cooper.

In Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court, Hutchinson HiFi & Vision Ltd was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £1,836 in costs after they pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10 (1) (b) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007. Simon Cooper admitted guilt to violating Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was ordered to pay fines of £600 in addition to £800 in costs.

Following the hearing, Simon Chilcott, a HSE inspector, said:

“As a result of the failings of Simon Cooper and Hutchinson HiFi and Vision, people were unnecessarily exposed to asbestos. This incident could have been avoided if the retailer had provided information on the presence of asbestos in the building and Mr Cooper had ensured he had seen a demolition and refurbishment survey before commencing the renovation work.

“The risks of asbestos are well known in the construction industry as are the controls required in dealing with it. Exposure to asbestos can have fatal or serious long term health consequences and, as such, every precaution must be taken to minimise any risks when working on buildings.”

Contractor Fined after Decorator Injured from Fall

W Pocock and Sons Limited, a building firm located in New Lane Hill, Tilehurst in Reading has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for safety failings following the serious injury of a 63 year old decorator who fell through a substandard guard rail at a housing development on 30 August last year. Phillip Williams, who was from Reading, sustained fractures in his hip, broke five ribs, chipped a bone in his spine and also suffered internal bleeding and clotting around his lungs as a consequence of the fall which occurred during the construction of a house at Wintringham Way.

Contractor W Pocock and Sons Limited, a local family-run business, had sub-contracted Mr Williams to work at the property. Before the incident he had been walking towards a first floor light-well in order to speak to ground floor workers. After leaning against a wooden guard rail it collapsed and he fell to the ground floor below – approximately 2.6 metres. He then had to spend three weeks in hospital and was unable to return to work for three months.

A HSE investigation discovered that someone had removed and replaced the guard rail in the light well before the accident so that materials could be passed from the ground floor to the first. Apparently this caused the fixings to degenerate which then made the guard rail insufficient for preventing a fall which reflects a failure on the part of the contractor.

W Pocock and Sons pleaded guilty at Reading Magistrates’ Court to one violation of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. They were fined £5,000 in addition to £2,706 in costs.

HSE inspector James Powell had this to say about the incident –

“Mr Williams sustained serious injuries as a result of his fall, which could easily have been avoided had the guard rail been adequately secured to ensure that it could not be displaced.

“It simply wasn’t up to the job, possibly as a result of the rail being removed and replaced on more than one occasion, and the subsequent deterioration this caused to the quality of the fitting.

“A thorough inspection of the guard rail after re-installation would have identified any weakness and could have saved Mr Williams a great deal of trauma. It underlines the need to routinely inspect fall protection equipment used for work at height.”

Nearly One in Five Construction Sites Fail Safety Checks

During a national initiative to improve the safety of construction sites in the UK, nearly one in five construction sites failed safety checks, which is actually a slight improvement on the years previously. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors went to 3237 sites and saw 4080 contractors. However, it was discovered that 581 sites put workers at risk with unsafe work practices – 870 enforcement notices were issued and work was immediately put to a halt in 603 instances.

The Chief Inspector of Construction, Philip White, had this to say on the matter –

“It is encouraging that inspectors found a slight improvement in standards and small construction firms are taking safety seriously when carrying out refurbishment work.

“But this is just a snapshot, and the number of notices served for unsafe work at height is still unacceptable, particularly when the safety measures are well-known and straightforward to implement.

“Too many contractors continue to put their own or other people’s lives at risk and we will not hesitate to take action where standards are not met.”

The HSE inspectors focused on construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was being performed. This was all in conjunction with an annual, month-long drive across Britain. Its aim is to reduce the risk of death, injury and ill health within the construction industry. High-risk activity, for instance, working at height, was being focused on while the inspectors also sought to ensure that sites were clean and tidy with clear access routes.

One of the most common causes of deaths and major injury in the construction industry is falling from a height. It is also responsible for the largest proportion of enforcement notices issued by the HSE at 49%. However this is still an improvement than in previous years, for example, it was 55% in 2010.

Construction Company and Managing Director Fined After Worker Dies

Siteweld Construction Ltd, a construction company, and its managing director have been prosecuted by Liverpool Crown Court after a 46-year-old construction worker died on 29 March 2007 when the crane he was operating fell over. The worker, Richard Mark Thornton, who was a father of two from Longridge near Preston, died when the 50-tonne crane fell over as it was trying to move a steel column. Mr Thornton had been assisting in the construction of a new floor on a warehouse at Wavertree Business Park when the steel column suddenly struck him.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the firm and its managing director, Benjamin Lee, for their failure in ensuring that work was planned and executed in a safe manner. The HSE discovered that the crane was lifting the six-tonne steel column from almost 18 metres away, which is outside the realms of a safe lifting capacity for a crane of that distance. The HSEialso discovered that the crane was not sufficiently maintained and the crane’s alarm was not audible to nearby workers. Furthermore, the override switches were defective, which included the switch that stopped the crane lifting loads outside its capacity.

Benjamin Lee was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £18,478 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8(1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. Siteweld Construction Ltd also pleaded guilty to the same offence and was fined £50 with no costs due to the fact that it is no longer functioning.

Mr Thornton’s widow, Sandra, stated –

“Mark and I were together over 20 years. We used to do everything together. When Mark died, my life stopped. I don’t live, I exist.

“It is hard to express just how much I miss him. I open the front door and he’s just not there.”

HSE inspector, Sarah Wadham, said reffered to as Mr Thornton’s death due to the company ignoring safety warnings as “tragic” and that the crane was in no way capable of lifting the steel column. She then stated –

“If the work had been properly planned, and the crane had been properly maintained, then Mr Thornton would still be alive today. It is vital construction companies learn from this case to prevent similar deaths in the future.