Two firms have been fined and ordered to pay costs after a brick archway collapsed during a major refurbishment project, injuring both workers.
The two men – who ask not to be named – were working as joiners on the refurbishment project of a former confectionary building at the time of the accident in February 2011. Brick pillars adjoining and supporting an archway in the building had been burrowed into to create “pockets” for steel beams, which were being installed as part of the refurbishment. However, the archway was weakened to such an extent that it collapsed on a number of workers that were working under it at the time. The two workers who were injured suffered, respectively, a fractured foot and an injured back.
The Health and Safety Executive was subsequently notified of the accident and started an investigation into the matter. It found that Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP were the designers for the project and that Brims Construction Limited had been contracted as the principal contractor on the project. The HSE subsequently recommended that a prosecution be initiated into both the businesses.
The matter came before the Newcastle Magistrates’ Court earlier this month. The court heard that the HSE investigation had identified safety failings, including the fact that the archway had been overly-weakened, leading to its collapse. A plan of work on the archway had not been reviewed by Brims and Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP had apparently not provided enough information on its designs to those working on the archway to enable them to know that working on the archway would destabilise it. Brims Construction Limited had also failed to plan and manage the work properly to deal with an unstable archway.
The Newcastle Magistrates’ Court found Brims Construction Limited guilty of breaching the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 and ordered it to pay £5,000 in costs, as well as fining it £1,000. The Magistrates Court also found Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP guilty of breaching the same legislation and fined it £1,000.
Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at personal injury solicitors Redmans, commented: “Firms have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of workers or third parties at work. If the firms fail to uphold those responsibilities then they may be liable in both criminal and civil law.”
HSE Inspector Keith Partington stated after the judgment: “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.”