Amec fined over 2004 site death

Eight years after a construction worker died on site in Spinningfields, Amec and Shawton Engineering have been found guilty of health and safety failures at Liverpool Crown Court.

Christopher HeatonTwenty-five-year-old Christopher Heaton, pictured, from St Helens, was working on the Leftbank apartments in Manchester city centre when he was dragged over the guardrail on a scaffolding platform after becoming entangled in a chain.

The Health & Safety Executive prosecuted the site's principal contractor, Amec Group, and steel-erection company Shawton Engineering following an investigation into Heaton's death.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the victim suffered fatal injuries after falling approximately seven storeys on 29 April 2004. Another worker, who does not want to be named, was also injured and the incident has had a long-term psychological impact on him.

The court was told Heaton had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform to adjust a steel beam three stories above him, when one of the supporting brackets gave way. He was struck by a falling steel block, became entangled in the operating chain, and was dragged over the edge of the scaffolding.

An HSE investigation into the incident found that the wrong studs had been used to secure the chain, and that the work had not been properly planned or monitored.

Amec Group was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety Act 1974, by failing to ensure the safety of workers, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court. The company, of Birchwood Boulevard, Birchwood, Warrington, was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £333,866 towards the cost of the prosecution on 29 June 2012.

Shawton Engineering, of Sankey Valley Industrial Estate, Newton le Willows, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(2)(a) of the same Act by failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work. The company, which has gone into administration, received a nominal fine of £1,000 with no costs.

Speaking after the hearing, Christopher Heaton's father, Len, said: "The loss of our son has completely devastated our lives. Nobody can imagine the impact his death has had. We have lost our only son who was the light of our lives, along with his sister Andrea.

"Chris was a good lad, with a happy-go-lucky outlook. He loved his job and was looking forward to a career in engineering.

"I used to worry about him all the time, especially when he was out at night. Ironically, I didn't worry too much when he was at work. I thought he was safe.

"After eight years, it is still hard to believe this has happened and, to try to put into words how it has affected us is very difficult. I think we think about him more now than when he was alive.

"Chris would still be alive today if simple health and safety rules were adhered to, and hopefully lessons have been learned to stop this type of incident happening again."
Neil Jamieson, HSE principal inspector for construction, added: "It is horrifying that Christopher Heaton was dragged off a scaffolding platform more than 20 metres high, causing him to plummet to his death.

"This was a major construction site, and the work taking place there should have been properly planned and managed.

"If either Chris's employer, Shawton Engineering, or the principal contractor on the site, Amec, had acted differently then his life could have been saved."

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