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August 12, 2010

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44-tonne machine fell into road during rush hour

Two construction companies have appeared in court after a 44-tonne piling machine overturned on to a busy main road in Hull.

Hull Crown Court heard that Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering Ltd was the principal contractor during the construction of a hotel and multi-story car park in Tower Street. The firm was using a piling machine to drive building supports in to the ground, when the incident took place on 10 December 2007.

Multibuild Ltd was sub-contracted to install a stone platform, from which the machine could operate, but it failed to design or install it correctly. The working area of the platform was not positioned close enough to where the supports were being installed. As a result, the machine was positioned on the edge of the platform, which is the weakest part of the structure.

As the machine was being moved into position, the platform gave way, and the vehicle overturned on to the road during the evening rush hour. No pedestrians or vehicles were damaged but the wall of an unoccupied property on the opposite side of the road was crushed.

The HSE visited the site the following day and issued a Prohibition Notice to Multibuild, which required groundwork to stop until a suitable work platform was provided. HSE inspector, Steve Hargreaves, told SHP: “This incident could have been avoided if Multibuild had produced a proper design for the platform and followed industry guidance during this process.

“Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering should have carried out simple checks to ensure that the platform had suitable dimensions to carry out the work safely.”

Both companies appeared in court on 5 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £17,676 in costs. Multibuild was fined £20,000 and £18,687 in costs.

In mitigation, Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering said it now demands sub-contractors to produce a design plan before installing platforms. It has also put in place procedures to check that the working area of a platform is positioned in the correct position.

Multibuild told the court that it complied with the Prohibition Notice by redesigning the platform and was then able to finish the job safely. It also said it is no longer operating as a business.

Neither firm had any previous related convictions and both entered early guilty pleas.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Dave Redman commented: “This incident could easily have resulted in disaster, and it is nothing short of a miracle that no one was killed, or seriously injured, given it occurred during the peak of the evening rush hour.

“It is every company’s responsibility to ensure that employees and members of the public are not exposed to danger from heavy construction machinery.

“There is extensive guidance governing safe working in this sector, and we hope the prosecution serves to remind people of their duties so that we don’t witness an incident of this kind again.”

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13 years ago

It seems the requirements of the CDM regs are optional for some major construction companies. If companies are not prosecuted under CDM for their failures then I guess there is the chance the regs will be ignored.Also how come the CDM-C pick up there wasnt a proper design?Multibuild cant have been a company of any standing considering they ceased trading immediately after the prohibition notice was complied with.It wouldnt surprise me that price took priority over safety.

13 years ago

I can’t believe that Balfour Beatty failed to check that there was a safe design in place before work on the platform commenced. The inspector is right it was a miracle that people weren’t killed.

I’m not sad to see that Multibuild is out of the game.