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September 16, 2010

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Demolition worker died after being hit by digger bucket

The principal and sub-contractors on a demolition job in Salford, Manchester were fined a total of £30,000 over an incident on the site in which a worker lost his life.

Father-of-three John Cain, 36, was working on the project to demolish the Albert Park Inn on Great Clowes Street on 22 November 2004, when he was hit by the bucket of a digger. He died from his injuries later that day.

Sitting on 10 September Manchester Crown Court heard that the principal contractor on the job was a partnership between Barry Godliman and Robert Watson, which had sub-contracted the demolition work to Windmill Demolition Company Ltd. Windmill engaged a third contractor, Alan Wilkinson, to carry out the work.

On the day of the incident, Wilkinson was driving the digger, moving a pile of rubble. The investigating HSE inspector, Stuart Kitchingman, told SHP what happened next: “Mr Cain was on the blind side of the pile, and, as the digger driver reached across it, the bucket struck Mr Cain.”

Essentially, the problem was one of communication, said the inspector: “The communication did not flow between the parties managing the job. Godliman and Watson were unaware that Windmill Demolition had further sub-contracted the job out, and Windmill didn’t tell them that it had, either. As a consequence, no arrangements were in place for adequate management and supervision of the work being carried out on site.”

Godliman and Watson were fined £7500 each and ordered to pay £2000 towards the prosecution’s costs, having pleaded guilty to a breach of section 3(1) of the HSWA 1974. Windmill Demolition Ltd pleaded not guilty to the same offence but was found guilty following a two-week trial in July. It was fined £15,000 with no costs.

Alan Wilkinson had been charged with breaching section 2(1) of the HSWA 1974 but was acquitted.

The judge had split the indictment into two – breach of section 3(1) with causation, and breach without causation, so it was up to the jury to decide whether or not the breach of section 3(1) actually caused Mr Cain’s death. The decision was that it did not.

In the case of Windmill Demolition, the judge stated that he held the company more culpable than Godliman and Watson, and that he would have fined it more had it not been for the parlous state of its finances. Its lack of means, plus the fact that the offence was determined not to be causative of Mr Cain’s death, were offered in mitigation by the company. Godliman and Watson offered their early guilty plea and cooperation with the HSE investigation.

Said inspector Kitchingman: “This case demonstrates how important it is for contractors to be aware of their health and safety duties, especially when there are several companies working on a project. Barry Godliman and Robert Watson were the principal contractors on the site and so should have made sure all work was carried out safely. Windmill Demolition had been hired to carry out the demolition work, and so had responsibilities for managing safety, as well.”

Speaking after the sentencing on 10 September, Mr Cain’s ex-partner and mother of this three young daughters, Karen Doran, said: “Hopefully, now that those responsible for health and safety on the site have been punished, we’ll be able this put this behind us and get on with our lives.”

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13 years ago

I suppose the fact that the jury ruled that the breach of Section 3 in the incident was not the cause of this man’s death is why the judge did not apply the current sentencing guidance which is if a breach if H&S law causes someone death then the fine should be at least £100000.

13 years ago

Well I guess we all now know what a father of 3’s life is worth. £30,000 what an utter disgrace!

Karen Doran
Karen Doran
6 years ago

Nearly 13 years on it still hurts so much xx always in our hearts John x
Love Karen and your girls xx