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January 8, 2009

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Construction giant admits safety oversight during regeneration project

An employee of a major construction contactor fell more than three metres during the construction of concrete stairs at an apartment building, which was being built as part of Liverpool city centre’s regeneration project.

Liverpool Crown Court, sitting on 6 January, heard that William Taylor was working for Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd, which was the principal contractor for the project, when the accident occurred on 13 August 2007.

Mr Taylor was fitting precast concrete landings and stairs into a 12-storey stairwell at the Liverpool One apartment building. A section of the landing was lowered down the shaft, by a crane, to be set in place on the third floor. But the risk assessment and method statement being used were different from the methods on which the workmen had been trained.

Once the landing was in place Mr Taylor attempted to detach it from the chain that was connected to the crane. But one of the four legs of the chain was still attached to the landing, so when the crane raised the chain, the landing tilted, and Taylor fell over three metres onto the stairs below. If the landing had tilted the other way, he would have fallen three stories to the ground below.

As a result of the accident Mr Taylor received a fractured skull, broke all of the ribs on the left side of his body, and suffered spinal damage.

Laing O’Rourke Construction pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 costs.

In mitigation, the firm showed remorse for the incident and said that this branch of its business had no previous convictions. As a result of the accident the company has revised its method statement accordingly.

HSE principal inspector, Nic Rigby, told SHP: “This accident could easily have been avoided if the work had been properly planned and the risk assessment was appropriate to the work that was being undertaken. There were no precautions in place to prevent falls and, if this accident had not occurred, then the same method of work would have been repeated for all the remaining floors of the building. It is by sheer chance that this incident was not a multiple fatality.”

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