July 31, 2017

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Crossrail worker death: £1m in fines for failures

BSG at Crossrail protest

The Blacklist Support Group at the Crossrail protest

Three companies working for Crossrail have been fined £1m for three sets of failures, one of which led to the death of a construction worker. Renè Tkáčik, 44, died as nearly a tonne of wet concrete was poured on to him.

The two other incidents saw a worker injured when a tipper truck crushed his leg, while another man was injured when a high pressure mixture struck him.

At Southwark Crown Court the companies admitted to the health and safety breaches.

Total fines

BFK – joint venture contractors comprising of BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas – were fined £300,000 in relation to Mr Tkáčik; £600,000 for the serious leg injuries to Terrence Hughes and £165,000 for the injuries Alex Vizitiu who hurt his head and suffered hip injuries.

They were taken to court by the Healty and Safety Executive.

Multiple failures

Southwark Crown Court heard Renè Tkáčik died after being crushed by the falling wet concrete on 7 March 2014. Two other men were injured following separate incidents within six days of one another, on 16 and 22 January 2015. All three incidents took place in the tunnels around the Fisher Street area.

Renè Tkáčik was working with a team enlarging the tunnel by removing rings of the existing pilot tunnel and spraying walls with liquid concrete. During this operation, a section of the roof collapsed, fatally crushing Mr Tkáčik.

On 16 January 2015 Terence ‘Ian’ Hughes was collecting some equipment from inside one of the tunnels when he was struck by a reversing excavator. He suffered severe fractures to his right leg and crush injuries to his left knee and shin.

Six days later worker Alex Vizitiu, who was part of a team tasked with spraying liquid concrete lining, was assisting with the cleaning of the pipes that supply the concrete. Due to a lack of communication one of the lines was disconnected and he was hit by pressurised water and concrete debris. He suffered head and hip injuries as well as a broken finger and was hospitalised for six days.

The HSE’s investigation found a failure to provide a safe system of work relating to the operations Renè Tkáčik and Alex Vizitiu were working on. It was also found there was a failure to properly maintain the excavator which reversed into Ian Hughes.

On all three occasions, the investigation found a failure to properly enforce exclusion zones that would have helped protect workers from foreseeable harm.

Tragic consequences

Bam Ferrovial Keir, of the corner of Charterhouse Street and Farringdon Road, London pleaded guilty to three offences. In relation to the death of Renè Tkáčik, it admitted to breaching Regulation 10(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £300,000 in relation to this offence.

BFK has pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of Section 22 (1a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, relating to the two incidents in January 2015. The joint venture was fined £600,000 for the incident involving Ian Hughes on 16 January, and £165,000 for the incident relating to Alex Vizitiu on 22 January.

The total fine is therefore £1,065,000. The defendant was also ordered to pay costs of £42,337.28.

HSE head of operations, Annette Hall, said: “The omission to implement exclusion zones in a high hazard environment was a consistent failure in this case. Had simple measures such as these been taken, all three incidents could have been prevented, and Renè Tkáčik may not have died.

“We believe every person should be healthy and safe at work. Here, all three workers were taking part in one of the most important and challenging infrastructure projects of the decade. It was this joint venture’s duty to protect its dedicated and highly-skilled workforce. On these three occasions, BFK failed in its duty, with tragic consequences for Renè Tkáčik and his family.”


Rene's family and supporters

The family of Rene Tkacik with supporters.

The family of Rene Tkacik have expressed anguish over the fine for his death, with reports that their lawyer, Helen Clifford of McMillan Williams Solicitors, only found out about the trial date by chance when they contacted the HSE for an update on the case earlier last week.

Ms Clifford read out a statement on behalf of Marta Tkacik and the rest of the family in open court following the ruling. Rene’s mother’s statement told how receiving the phone call about her son’s death “was the most devestating news in my life. My heart was literally ripped out.” Marta Tcacik donated her £6,000 court expenses to the Construction Safety Campaign.

Lee Fowler, blacklisted safety rep from the Blacklist Support Group, made the following statement after the sentencing:  “Rene’s death is a tragedy but it was totally avoidable if BFK had put proper safety measures in place.

“But instead, the Health & Safety at Work etc Act was breached and at the same time the companies were victimising Frank Morris after he raised concerns about safety on the project. Blacklisting may have been a contributory factor not just in Rene’s death but a series of other near fatal accidents on Crossrail.”

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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