Leatherhead firm fined after concrete collapse
7:10am Wednesday 18th April 2012 in Business News
A Leatherhead construction company has been fined £50,000 after 250 tonnes of wet concrete collapsed, injuring workers on a Liverpool building site.
Wates Construction Limited, based in Station Approach, Leatherhead, was ordered to pay the fine, and £35,591 in prosecution costs, by Liverpool Crown Court on April 10.
The court was told that seven workers were lucky to survive when the concrete collapsed at Liverpool John Moores University, during the construction of an atrium for a new art and design academy on September 19 2007.
MPB Structures Limited, of Crucible Road in Corby, Northamptonshire, to which the concrete work was sub-contracted by Wates Construction, the principal contractor, was also fined £50,000 with costs of £35,362.
Both companies admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by putting workers at risk.
Workers had been pumping concrete onto the third floor of the building for most of the day, the court heard, when the supporting scaffolding holding up the concrete suddenly collapsed.
The workers' injuries included cement burns to their skin and eyes, and bone fractures.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive investigation found Wates Construction Limited and MPB Structures Limited allowed the scaffolding to be erected from a preliminary design, clearly marked ‘for discussion and pricing purposes only’. The drawing did not include all the information needed to erect the scaffolding correctly or safely and the companies also failed to ensure the scaffolding was checked before allowing the concrete to be poured.
Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Susan Ritchie said: "This incident resulted in seven men falling roughly 10 metres onto wet concrete which contained various bits of metal and wood.
"The companies should have made sure they had an appropriate design they could use to build from, and that the structure was inspected before the concrete was poured.
"Instead, more than 250 tonnes of concrete was poured onto scaffolding incapable of taking such loads and the inevitable happened - it collapsed. These basic errors could easily have resulted in several people losing their lives.
"This incident should act as a stark reminder that if you fail to plan and manage projects properly then there is a real potential for things to go seriously wrong."
Dave Smith, chief operating officer for Wates Group Limited, said: "Safety is a core value at Wates and we remain committed to continuously improving our health and safety performance, policies and procedures.
"We undertook our own internal investigation immediately following this incident and have fully incorporated the findings and recommendations into our induction, training arrangements and policies."