Building firm sentenced after employee falls to death

David McCourt

A building company and one of its directors have been sentenced after an employee fell 15 metres to his death in an empty water storage tank in Macclesfield.

The Health & Safety Executive prosecuted Wilmslow-based Galt Civil Engineering and director Peter Stuart following an investigation into the death of Peter Halligan at Sutton Hall Farm on 14 August 2008.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that 45-year-old Halligan, from Liverpool, and a colleague had started work at the farm on London Road in Lyme Green three days earlier.

They had been constructing brick manhole chambers above the circular tank, around 7.5 metres in diameter, which had been installed to collect flood water.manhole

A HSE investigation found they had not been given sufficient information or a risk assessment for the job, and were not given any advice about working above the storage tank by their employer.

Peter Stuart, 54, who was a director with day-to-day responsibility for running the company, visited the site the day before the incident and saw both men working over the exposed openings in the tank. However, he took no action to put safety measures in place.

On the day of the incident, Halligan's colleague had gone to collect a saw but when he turned back around he could no longer see Halligan. His body was found at the bottom of the storage tank.

Both Galt Civil Engineering, which is in administration, and Peter Stuart pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers.

Galt Civil Engineering received a nominal fine of £50 and was ordered to pay prosecution costs of £24,974.

Peter Stuart, of Delph Lane in Chorley, was fined £30,000 with no costs.

James Halligan, one of Peter's brothers, said: "Peter was the glue that held us together after the loss of our parents. He is missed so much that it hurts.

"Every day I say to myself Peter should be here with us where he is loved so much. It should have been old age that took him away but it was not."

Kevin Jones, HSE inspector, said after the hearing: "Peter Halligan sadly lost his life because his employer didn't give any thought to his safety as he worked above a 15-metre deep tank.

"There were several ways the work could have been carried out safely, such as using a harness, installing a guardrail around the opening, or providing temporary covers. However, Galt Civil Engineering and Peter Stuart chose none of these.

"This case shows how health and safety when working at height doesn't just affect work being carried out at the top of buildings. The risks are just as great at lower levels if there's the potential for someone to fall a distance likely to cause serious injury."

Galt Civil Engineering could not be contacted for comment.

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