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Developer sentenced for management failings following platform collapse

Date:
9 January 2014

A prominent London developer has been sentenced for safety management failings after a worker was seriously injured when a temporary platform collapsed at a landmark site in south London.

Noel Doyle, 32, from Hammersmith, suffered a shattered right elbow, broken vertebrae, fractured pelvis and ribs, and damage to internal organs in the incident at St George Wharf in Vauxhall on 10 February 2009.

He fell almost ten metres from a platform when it gave way, landing on a concrete staircase below.

St George South London Ltd (SGSL), the principal contractor for construction work at the site, was today (9 January) fined after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a number of failings.

Southwark Crown Court heard that on the day of the fall Mr Doyle was helping two colleagues, including a foreman, to raise a temporary work platform inside a concrete shaft to house a stairwell within a building under construction, which was known as ‘Block A’.

The platform was lifted from one floor to another by a crane using four lifting chains before being locked in place in the shaft to enable the next level to be constructed. It had been raised from the fourth to the fifth floor level when the crane operator was inadvertently instructed by the foreman to take the chains away while one of them was still attached. The platform was lifted by only one corner and disintegrated.

Of the three workers standing on the temporary structure at the time, two managed to jump to safety but Mr Doyle was unable to do so. He fell into the shaft beneath with parts of the platform and equipment that had been stored on top raining down on him.

Mr Doyle required extensive treatment and physiotherapy, and has been left with limited movement in his right arm because of the elbow injury. He is no longer able to work in construction.

The HSE investigation identified that SGSL, as the principal contractor, had failed to properly plan and manage the construction work so as to avoid risks to safety. The company failed to ensure that their subcontractors had developed and implemented safe systems of work, particularly in relation to the management and use of temporary works.

St George South London Ltd, of St George House, The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, Fulham, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £27,386 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After sentencing HSE Inspector Loraine Charles said:

“It is vitally important that principal contractors appreciate that managing and monitoring subcontractors involves more than merely requiring them to provide risk assessments and method statements, and then carrying out basic hazard spotting inspections. They need to make sure that there is a proper assessment of the content of the documentation provided to ensure that they make sense and properly address the risks associated with the work being undertaken.

“In this case, St George South London concerned themselves more with the existence than the content of the subcontractor safety documents, and although they themselves carried out regular site safety inspections, all of these were superficial and failed to indentify significant systemic failures.”

The company subcontracted for the construction of the reinforced concrete frame of the building was also prosecuted over the collapse. J Reddington Ltd, of Elstree Way, Borehamwood, Herts, was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £22,193 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at Southwark Crown Court on 28 June last year.

Further information on construction safety, including temporary works, can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/construction

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. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 22(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 covers the duties of a principal contractor. Further details here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/320/regulation/22/made

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