A Surrey Construction Company was ordered to pay £160,000 in fines and costs after a worker narrowly escaped death when he was caught in a collapse of nine tonnes of steel and concrete.
Floor planks collapsed into the basement with the grey steel beam that failed lying on top of the planks.
Bola Akinola, 48, fell more than four metres when steelwork supporting concrete floor planks failed, causing the material to collapse, at a site in Westerham, Kent on 9 May 2009.
Mr Akinola, of Littlehampton, West Sussex, suffered life-changing injuries including multiple fractures to his pelvis, leg and arm. He was in hospital for several weeks and was unable to work for nearly a year. He has still not regained full mobility in his left arm.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Esher-based Landmark Groundworks Ltd for serious safety breaches.
A nine-day trial at Maidstone Crown Court heard Mr Akinola was helping to build a large new basement alongside an empty house that was being refurbished and extended. Landmark Groundworks was contracted to oversee the project and provide supporting steelwork.
On the day of the incident, a separate sub-contractor, Mr Akinola’s employer, had laid around 50 concrete floor planks, each weighing up to two tonnes, for the ground floor. Four planks were laid on a beam that had not been fixed at one end and only held with small welds at the other. As a result the beam tilted and gave way while workers were still on the planks.
Mr Akinola, a plank installer, fell four metres into the basement with the collapsing steel and three of the floor planks. Another worker managed to jump to safety as the floor gave way.
HSE’s investigation found that Landmark Groundworks, which operates across the South East, had failed to follow construction industry established procedures designed to avoid this type of incident. Landmark had ignored design proposals by two structural engineers that would have helped ensure the project was carried out safely. In addition Landmark did not carry out checks on the installation to ensure it was ready to load out.
The company, of Wren House, Portsmouth Road, Esher, was today fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after being found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing HSE Inspector John Underwood said:
“Buildings do not build themselves. The process needs to be actively managed to ensure that sub-contractors get the correct information and use it.
“It is completely unacceptable for a main contactor, Landmark Groundworks Ltd, to allow work to continue with a botched design, and with no checks carried out on either the design or the installation.
“This incident resulted in life-changing injuries to Mr Akinola and it was a matter of luck that the collapse of nearly nine tonnes of building material did not result in multiple fatalities.”
Source: HSE 27 July 12
LST Comment: Construction Companies and their nominated Site Managers have legal responsibilities to provide and maintain a safe place of work along with safe systems of work at all times for their employees, furthermore, their activities should not endanger others. Knowledge of the Construction Design & Management Regulations 2007 (CDM) and other construction related legislation is vital, but acting on this legislation and using appropriate controls that have been developed from competent staff partaking in planning is paramount, as is the communication of these controls, training (including induction) and supervision of staff.