Construction firms sentenced over worker’s fatal fall

Construction firms sentenced over worker’s fatal fall.

Two construction firms have been fined a total of £301,000; after a worker fell 22 metres to his death in Manchester.

Christopher Heaton, from St Helens, was working on the Leftbank riverside apartments in Manchester city centre. He was dragged over the guardrail on a scaffolding platform after becoming entangled in a chain.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the construction firm’s principal contractor. Amec Group Ltd, and steel-erection company Shawton Engineering Ltd following an investigation into Mr Heaton’s death.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the 25-year-old 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 Mr Heaton had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform to adjust a steel beam three stories above him; then one of the supporting brackets gave way. He was struck by a falling steel block and became entangled in the operating chain. He was then 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 Ltd was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety etc 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.

Construction firms

Shawton Engineering Ltd, 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.”

The latest figures show that 50 construction firms workers were killed while at work in Great Britain in 2010/11, and there were nearly 3,000 major injuries.

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Section 2(2)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states the following. “The matters to which that duty [to the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees] extends include in particular the provision and maintenance of plant and systems of work that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health”
  3. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 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.”

By Mathew Bewley

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