Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

February 17, 2015

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Contractor to pay £200k following worker’s death on sewerage pipe scheme

Cappagh Contractors Construction has been ordered to pay £200,000 in fines and costs after a workman was killed by a piece of flying timber which struck him on the head while laying sewerage pipes in Swindon. HSE said that the workers had been allowed to “improvise” their own method of work which was inherently dangerous.

Fredric March, 52, from Croydon, was working at the site in Galton Way, Swindon on 10 June 2011 when a piece of timber used as a cushion on the ends of the pipes being pushed in place by an excavator snapped.

Swindon Crown Court heard on 11 February that Cappagh were the main contractors for the work and employed three workmen to lay iron sewerage pipes in a trench, following an HSE investigation into the incident.

The sections of pipe were designed to slot together and the workmen used an excavator bucket to push them in place. Two pieces of timber were used to cushion the ends of the pipes – one horizontally and one vertically. This was so the excavator could work around an existing horizontal strut on a trench box. The horizontal piece of timber snapped while being pushed by the excavator and a broken piece hit Mr March on the head. He sustained critical injuries and died six weeks later.

Cappagh had not given the workmen any guidance or alternative ways to carry out their work around the strut which was causing an obstruction. They had been allowed to come up with their own method which was inherently dangerous.

Cappagh Contractors Construction (London) Ltd of Waterside Way, Wimbledon, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and a breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The company was fined a total of £130,000 and ordered to pay £70,000 in costs.

HSE inspector Sue Adsett, speaking after the hearing, said: “This tragic loss of life could have been avoided if Cappagh had taken proper measures before the work started and planned the task properly.

“Pipe laying companies must have safe systems of work and ensure their workers don’t have to improvise safety measures.

“Employers have a duty to carry out thorough risk assessments and provide safe ways of working. Including the workforce in designing safe methods also makes it less likely that they will improvise when problems arise.”

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