Employer failed to communicate dangers of working with steel beam.. A carpenter was killed when a large slab of concrete crushed him during the construction of a new block of accommodation at Bath University.
The accident victim had been adjusting a metal prop when the tragedy occurred due to the fact that he was unaware that the prop was securing a heavy concrete plank directly above him.
The concrete plank fell onto the man killing him instantly and there was a lucky escape for the man’s colleague who was nearby and who was narrowly missed by the falling concrete. The accident happened on 1 November 2007 and after the HSE conducted a thorough investigation they decided to proceed with a prosecution against the carpenter’s employer.
The concrete products company was fined a total of £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £140,000 taking their total liability to almost a quarter of a million after being found guilty of a breach of Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
The court heard that the company failed to communicate effectively with the accident victim with regard to the nature of the expansion joint that supported the steel beam that held the concrete. Therefore the company was held responsible for the decision the carpenter took to adjust the metal prop and inadvertently destabilise the steel beam the concrete slab was resting on.
HSE Inspector Ian Smart commented after the hearing:
“Unfortunately there has been a rise in the number of fatalities caused by the collapse of structures under construction or refurbishment over the past few years.
“The victim was an experienced carpenter but the concrete company failed to recognise the scope of the work he was undertaking and failed to ensure he was made aware of how critical the placements of the props were and the fact they should not be adjusted.
“Therefore, the victim would not have understood the outcome of his actions. It was foreseeable he and other workers on site would seek to move props and robust steps should have been taken to prevent this.