A property developer has been fined £10,000 after an incident at a property conversion in St Albans left an electrician paralysed
Meadows WR was converting a property in St Albans and hired construction manager Samuel Harrington as the main contractor. The main contractor then brought in other specialist contractors to carry out the work. One of these firms hired the deceased electrician, Kundi. He fell from his own step ladder on the first floor of the unfinished building, though a void in the floor. Guardrails around the void had been removed earlier that day.
St Albans Crown Court was told by the prosecution that he died three years after the incident, on 30 May 2012. He broke his spine in three places and became paralysed from the chest down. He died of respiratory failure linked to his spinal injuries and paraplegia.
An investigation by the HSE confirmed that the opening onto the first floor had no edge protection to prevent the risk of falling through. It was also found that Meadows WR failed to plan, manage and monitor the work to the required standard.
Pleas and Sentence
The firm, Meadows WR of City Road, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1) of the Construction (Design Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.
However, the jury acquitted Samuel Harrington of charges under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
Barrister Sara Lawson prosecuting said that Harrington was in charge of the day to day running of the site and as such was responsible for ensuring that measures were in place to protect workers.
The court accepted that guardrails had to be removed to allow the installation of plasterboard by two other workers that day and also that Kundi had not been expected on the site on 31 May. He had told Harrington that he had finished his work.
HSE inspector John Berezansky said:
“Working at height is a high-risk activity as well as all construction work, effective controls and management is essential to avoid serious injuries and incidents like this.
The developer Meadows WR failed in its duty to ensure such measures were in place to prevent this tragic incident.”
Safety Smart Comment:
• This is an utterly tragic case and an example of an incredibly common accident. So often on building sites experienced contractors are left to “get on with it”. It is unacceptable that despite the general awareness of the fatal dangers of falls from height, developers and other duty holders on many sites up and down the country extensively fail to ensure that the work at height is properly planned, managed and monitored.
• Workers who are left on site without adequate supervision will sometimes cut corners unless they are part of a culture of safety awareness and compliance. Many sites will now remove any contractors who are seen working in an unsafe way and refuse them any future entry and rightly so.
• Unless companies foster a culture of responsibility and a refusal to accept the cutting of any corners when it comes to working safely on site, fatal accidents such as this one will continue to happen.
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