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Two firms fined after workers injured at construction site

Date:
1 August 2013

Two firms have been fined after a brick archway weighing two tonnes collapsed and injured two workers during a major refurbishment project.

The two men, both joiners, were shoring up the arch after it become unstable due to the removal of some masonry on one of the support pillars.

One fractured a foot and the other injured his back in the incident at a former toffee factory in Ouseburn, Newcastle, on 15 February 2011.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) today (1 August 2013) prosecuted Brims Construction Ltd, the principal contractor for the project, and designers Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP after an investigation into the collapse identified safety failings.

Newcastle Magistrates’ Court heard that brick pillars adjoining the archway had been weakened after ‘pockets’ were created in the masonry to hold steel beams, which were being installed as part of a major refurbishment of the former confectionary building.

The court was told the removal of the masonry caused the arch to become unstable, as the pillar had acted as a buttress. The condition of the arch was brought to the attention of Brims’ site foreman who instructed the two joiners to shore it up.

They devised a plan of work, but it was not reviewed by Brims to check that it was a safe method of working.

While work was underway, the archway collapsed onto the two workers. One suffered a fractured foot and the other injured his back.

HSE inspectors found that Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP had not provided information in its designs to ensure those carrying out the work would have known removing the masonry would cause the archway to become unstable.

Brims Construction Ltd also failed to plan and manage the work to deal with the unstable archway safely.

Brims Construction Ltd, of Austin Boulevard, Quay West Business Park, Sunderland, was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007.

Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP, of Horsley House, Regent Centre, Gosforth, Newcastle, also pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 11(6)(c) of the same legislation. The company was fined £1,000 with costs of £7,000.

Speaking after the case HSE Inspector Keith Partington said:

"Fortunately the injuries suffered by the workers were not serious. However, if could have been a lot worse as around two tonnes of brickwork fell down when the arch collapsed.

"This incident could have easily been avoided. Firstly, if the designers had ensured sufficient information was available in the drawings it would have alerted those carrying out the work to the potential dangers to start with. Brims should also have properly planned and managed the work."

During 2011/12, 49 workers were killed while working in construction and 2,884 major injuries were reported. For more information about health and safety while working on construction sites log onto the website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/

Notes to editors

  1. 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. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 states: "The principal contractor for a project shall (a) Plan, manage and monitor the construction phase in a way which ensures that, so far as reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health or safety."
  3. Regulation 11(6)(c) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 states: "The designer shall take all reasonable steps to provide with his design sufficient information about aspects of the design of the structure or its construction or maintenance as will adequately assist contractors to comply with their duties under these Regulations."

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