Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
August 26, 2010

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Unsupported platform gave way under building worker

Two construction companies have been fined a total of £125,000 after a worker fell 21 metres during building work at a hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd was the principal contractor during the creation of a new adult block at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. It contracted one of its subsidiary companies, Expanded Structures Ltd, to build the superstructure for the new building.

On 20 October 2006, sub-contractor Steven McColgan was walking across a working platform on level six of the superstructure in order to collect some tools. The platform had been placed around the outside of a newly-set concrete floor, but the platform’s supports had been removed once the concrete had set. When Mr McColgan stepped on to the platform the edge broke away and he fell 21 metres to the ground. He suffered serious injuries to his head and body, and has been unable to return to work owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector Victoria Wise revealed that Laing O’Rourke did not review Expanded Structures’ method statement and did not monitor the work, as it was a subsidiary company. She said: “Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd and Expanded Structures Ltd failed in their duty of care to Mr McColgan, who was lucky to survive the fall.

“Laing O’Rourke had a duty as principal contractor to ensure that safe systems of work were in place and were being implemented on their site. The company had received previous advice from HSE on this specific matter, at another Newcastle site only two years earlier.

“Specialist contractor Expanded Structures Ltd had a duty to ensure that the risks associated with their work had been adequately assessed, and that day-to-day controls and systems of work were effective.”

Both companies appeared at Newcastle Crown Court on 24 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. Laing O’Rourke Construction Ltd was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,756. Expanded Structures was fined £75,000 and £14,154 in costs.

In mitigation, Laing O’Rourke said it did have measures in place to review method statements used by external contractors, and it has now extended this to cover work undertaken by its subsidiary companies.

Expanded Structures had no previous convictions and told the court that it has improved its control measures. It now requires workers to receive sign-off before removing falsework to ensure that it is not prematurely dismantled.

A spokesperson from Laing O’Rourke told SHP: “Laing O’Rourke and Expanded Structures deeply regret the injuries that were suffered by Mr McColgan.  Both companies place the safety of their employees above all other concerns, and have provided every assistance to the HSE throughout its enquiries.  Steps have been taken to ensure that such an incident does not occur again in the future.”

The Safety Conversation Podcast: Listen now!

The Safety Conversation with SHP (previously the Safety and Health Podcast) aims to bring you the latest news, insights and legislation updates in the form of interviews, discussions and panel debates from leading figures within the profession.

Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today!

Related Topics

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
13 years ago

When you look on the HSE database for health & safety breaches/prosecutions makes you wonder if you want to work for Laing ORourke

13 years ago

I’m amazed that a company as large as this has got away with what appears to be a slap of the wrist. It beggers belief that a systems checking procedure wasnt in place previously, this cant be the first time this task has been undertaken surely.