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December 23, 2008

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Fatal fall at Welsh Assembly costs firm GBP 200k

A contractor died after a wall collapsed, throwing him from a ladder during the construction of the Welsh National Assembly building.

The company managing the project, Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, at Cardiff Crown on 18 December. The firm was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £71,400.

The court heard that John Walsh, 53, had been employed as a supervisor by the site’s sub-contractor Ferson Construction Ltd, when the accident occurred on 15 March 2008. Mr Walsh was working on a ladder, approximately 2.5 metres from the ground, filling a cavity between a small return in a block-work wall and the main concrete structure of the building.

Mr Walsh was filling the cavity with liquid concrete through a hose and the pressure of the concrete caused the wall to collapse and surge backwards. This resulted in Mr Walsh being propelled off the ladder, landing on the ground several metres away. He suffered fatal head and chest injuries.

In mitigation, Taylor Woodrow said it deeply regretted the accident and it is currently taking steps to prevent a similar tragedy. It also told the court that it had a good but not unblemished safety history and took full responsibility for the incident.

HSE inspector Alun Williams told SHP: “This tragic accident could have easily been avoided if the principal contractor had provided the correct safety information to the sub-contractor.

“Taylor Woodrow had created a safe method of work, which stated that the wall should be constructed four or five blocks at a time. The cavity should then be filled and back-filled before work commenced on the remainder of the height.

“This method of work was never passed on to the sub-contractor and the wall was constructed to full height before Mr Walsh began filling the cavity. Taylor Woodrow failed to ensure the method was followed and, in doing so, failed to manage the activity of others.”

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