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June 30, 2009

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Crane deaths firm sentenced

A crane hire company has been sentenced for its part in an incident

when a tower crane collapsed, leading to the death of two workers in

February 2005 (see our earlier story).

Chichester Crown Court fined Eurolift (Tower Cranes) Ltd £50,000 and ordered it to pay £1000 in costs on 19 June, after it had pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and reg. 8(3) of the Construction (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1996 at a previous hearing on 27 March 2009.

Judge William Wood said he believed the offence had been serious enough to warrant a fine of up to £200,000. However, in imposing the lower fine, handed down on the s2(1) charge only, Judge Wood took into account the current financial state of the company, which has ceased trading. He said: “It seems to be right that Eurolift should discontinue trading rather than for me to impose a trivial fine that does not reflect the gravity of the offence.”

Sentencing of WD Bennett Plant and Services Ltd, which took over Eurolift in 2003, was adjourned, pending the receipt of financial information. The firm, which pleaded not guilty but was convicted of breaching s3(1) of HSWA 1974 and the same construction regulation as Eurolift at the 27 March hearing, is now in administration and was not represented at sentencing.

The incident took place on a construction site at a school in Durrington, West Sussex, on 11 February 2005. Steve Boatman and Gary Miles had been working on the jib of a crane, while a third man, who was injured in the incident, was working on the crane’s mast, having been instructed to de-torque the mast bolts of the crane.

The bolts should have been slackened off and then re-tightened one by one, but the man had not been trained to do this, so left them partly unfastened. As a consequence, the crane collapsed as it was turned, flinging Mr Boatman and Mr Miles to the ground. Both died from multiple injuries sustained in the fall, while the third worker suffered broken bones and lacerations.

HSE inspector Peter Collingwood, who led the investigation, commented: “This was a wholly avoidable tragedy in which two men lost their lives and another was seriously injured. There was potential for many more lives to be lost. We urge all employers to ensure employees are properly trained and understand the risks involved in the work they do.”

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