Firms fined £100k after LJMU fall

Wates Construction and MPB Structures have been fined a total of £100,000 over an incident in 2007 when seven construction workers were injured after scaffolding collapsed at Liverpool John Moores University's Art & Design Academy.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that workers had been pumping concrete onto the third floor of the building for most of the day on 19 September 2007 when the supporting scaffolding holding up the concrete suddenly collapsed. The workers' injuries included cement burns to their skin and eyes, and bone fractures.

The Health & Safety Executive investigation found both the principal contractor for the project, Wates Construction, and the concrete subcontractor, MPB Structures, allowed the supporting 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. The companies also failed to ensure the scaffolding was checked before allowing the concrete to be poured.

Both companies admitted breaching the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 by putting workers at risk. Wates Construction, of Station Approach in Leatherhead, Surrey, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £35,591 in prosecution costs on 10 April 2012. MPB Structures, of Crucible Road in Corby, Northamptonshire, was fined £50,000 with costs of £35,362.

Susan Ritchie, HSE inspector, said after the hearing: "This incident resulted in seven men falling roughly ten 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."

Last year, there were 50 workplace deaths and nearly 3,000 major injuries reported in the construction industry in Great Britain.

Wates Construction was charged with breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

Dave Smith, chief operating officer for Wates Group, commented: "Safety is a core value at Wates and we remain committed to continuously improving our health and safety policies and procedures. We undertook our own internal investigation following this incident and have fully incorporated the findings and recommendations into our induction, training arrangements and policies."

MPB Structures was charged with breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act. The section states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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