CDM Failure causes concrete collapse at University


A leading construction firm was lucky to escape more serious consequences when 7 workers fell due to a scaffolding collapse which released over 250 tonnes of wet concrete during the construction of a new Art and Design Academy at Liverpool John Moores University.

Inadequate Scaffolding

Wates Construction Ltd was the principal contractor in the project which was to build a new atrium in the building: and also found liable was their concreting subcontractor, MPB Structures Ltd. It seems that between them they allowed the supporting scaffolding to be erected from a preliminary design, marked ‘for discussion and pricing purposes only’. Clearly the CDM Coordinator should have spotted this error, if not also having ensured that a final scaffold design had been substituted for it and used by all parties. The drawing that was used incorrectly did not provide all the information necessary for erection or provide an adequate strength of scaffold for the weight of concrete involved. Neither was the scaffolding checked before the work started.

The accident occurred on September 19th, 2007 and throughout that day concrete was poured onto the third floor. The floor was supported with scaffold that suddenly gave way along with all the concrete, causing seven men to fall around ten metres onto wet concrete, metal and wood. Between them they suffered broken bones and cement burns to skin and eyes. Fortunately no more serious or lasting injuries were suffered.

At Liverpool Crown Court on 10 April both the accused companies admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers at risk.

Wates Construction Ltd, of Leatherhead, Surrey, was fined £50,000 for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, plus £35,591 for HSE’s prosecution costs.

MPB Structures Ltd, of Corby, Northamptonshire, was fined £50,000 for breaching Section 3(1) of the same Act, plus prosecution costs of £35,362.

The roles of CDM Coordinators & Safety Consultants

It is lapses of this kind, potentially lethal as well as high-profile ones, that the CDM regulations are intended to prevent. The appointment of an experienced third-party CDM Co-ordinator ensures that he or she will pull together all aspects of the project design at each stage of completion, and seek to make sure that they are fit for purpose in the practised eyes of safety consultants. They should also monitor the flow of information and get the right plans to the right people in advance of the work commencing.

Clearly the contractors themselves bear the responsibility for carrying out risk assessment and checking the health and safety factors of all equipment in use. Here again the engagement of a qualified safety consultant based locally but with national support and training, such as the consultants of McCormack Benson Health & Safety, will enable contractors’ management and supervisors to benefit from practical help and support that can save them time, money, and avert potentially disastrous incidents such as this one.