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July 1, 2013

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Miscommunication led to worker’s stairwell plunge

A construction worker fell ten metres when a temporary platform collapsed at a landmark property development in South London.

Southwark Crown Court heard J Reddington Ltd (JRL) had been contracted to construct a building as part of the build of St George Wharf in Vauxhall.

On 10 February 2009, Noel Doyle was helping two other JRL employees raise a temporary work platform inside a concrete shaft, where a stairwell was being constructed.

The platform was lifted between the fourth and fifth floor by a crane using four lifting chains. It was then locked in place in the shaft to enable the next level to be constructed.

The crane operator was instructed by the foreman to take the chains away while one of them was still attached, causing the platform to collapse. Two of the men managed to jump clear but Mr Doyle fell ten metres to the concrete staircase. Parts of the platform and the equipment that had been stored on it, landed on him.

The 32-year-old suffered a shattered right elbow, broken vertebrae, fractured pelvis and ribs, and damage to internal organs. He was unable to return to work for two years and is no longer able to work in construction.

HSE inspector Loraine Charles told SHP that JRL had failed to plan, manage and monitor the work. The platform had also been built without conforming to the design plan.

“Mr Doyle sustained serious injuries as a result of a fall, which was entirely preventable had work involving temporary platforms been better planned and managed by JRL,” said inspector Charles. “He fell a significant distance and could easily have been killed, as could his two colleagues who were with him on the platform.”

JRL appeared in court on 28 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay £22,193 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it fully cooperated with the investigation and entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. It subsequently redesigned the temporary platform and ensured its use was more closely monitored.

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