Construction giant Amec Group must pay more than £633,000 in fines and costs following the death eight years ago of a steel erector, who was working on a major property development in Manchester.
Amec Group Ltd was the principal contractor for the Spinningfields development, which created a number of apartments and retail units. The firm sub-contracted Shawton Engineering Ltd to create the steel architecture at the site.
On 29 April 2004, steel erector Christopher Heaton, 25, was working at the site for Shawton Engineering. He had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform, which was positioned on a bridge linking two buildings, to adjust a steel beam three storeys above him. One of the supporting brackets gave way and he was struck by a falling steel block and became entangled in the operating chain. The chain continued to fall and Mr Heaton was pulled over the edge of the scaffolding and plunged 22 metres to his death.
One of Mr Heaton’s colleagues tried to prevent him from being pulled over the edge, but was unable to save him. The worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, suffered a head injury and the incident has left a long-term psychological impact on him.
The HSE’s investigation found the work had been poorly planned and the wrong studs had been used to secure the chain. It issued a Prohibition Notice to both firms, ordering the work to stop until a safe system of work had been created.
HSE Principal Inspector for construction Neil Jamieson told SHP that the complex nature of the investigation into the incident had resulted in it taking a number of years for the case to come to court. The HSE was also prevented from starting its investigation until an inquest had been completed, and until the Police had finished its investigation.
He explained the incident could have been avoided if the steelwork had been pre-cambered and the work was properly managed. “This was a major construction site, and the work taking place there should have been properly planned and managed,” said Principal Inspector Jamieson.
“If either Chris’s employer, Shawton Engineering, or the principal contractor on the site, Amec, had acted differently, then his life could have been saved.”
Amec Group Ltd was found guilty of breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court. On 29 June, it was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay £333,886 towards costs.
Shawton Engineering Ltd, which is now in administration, appeared at the same hearing and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(2)(a) of the same Act. It was fined £1000 with no costs.
In mitigation, Amec said it regretted the incident but felt it had been let down by Shawton Engineering, which, it believed, was a competent sub-contractor.
After the hearing, a spokesperson from Amec said: “We are pleased for all concerned that the case has finally come to a conclusion after so many years. We would like to express our deepest sympathy to Mr Heaton’s family for their loss.”
Shawton Engineering said it had no previous convictions and it complied with the enforcement notice by constructing the remaining steelwork for the bridge on the ground, and then lifting it into place.
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