Innocent bystander injured by falling plant while waiting for a bus.


A member of the public was waiting for a bus when she was struck by falling machinery that was in the process of being moved by crane, in a severe lapse of construction safety precautions.

The lady concerned was unlucky enough to suffer several severe injuries. These included broken bones, flesh wounds and swelling to the head. She was kept in hospital for eight days and the injuries have subsequently adversely affected her work and study.

The incident took place in York Road, Waterloo, London on 26th September 2008: the long gap before prosecution is typical of cases of this kind and the Government’s stated objective is to bring them to court much sooner in future.
Contractor Concentra Ltd, of Waltham Cross, was refurbishing an adjacent office building. The operation in question was to lift to the 5th floor an air handling unit, weighing 380kg, and measuring 0.6m square x 2m high.

No scaffolding used

Traditional scaffolding was not being used: instead a mast climber was erected, allowing workers to be raised and lowered on the outside of the building. It was this mast climber that was struck by the air handling unit during the operation to lift it by crane, using a lifting sling. The unit was knocked out of the sling and plummeted to the ground, hitting the woman.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court agreed with the prosecutors, the Health & Safety Executive, that this unfortunate incident was preventable: the crane was not fitted correctly. Moreover, measures that should have been taken according to proper health and safety practice included:

  • Risk assessment of methods of safe working and the avoidance of falls from height (one of the most common dangers in the construction safety field)
  • The creation of a different walkway for pedestrians that would have kept them clear of danger
  • Obtaining approval for a temporary bus stop relocation

The result was that Concentra Ltd of High Street, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire, was found guilty under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The firm was fined £20,000 plus prosecution costs of £21,000.

(Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks of their health and safety).

Busy site dangers in town locations

One of the most important lessons of this case is that in our crowded island, and especially in the current climate where new build work is outweighed by the refurbishment of old buildings, many construction sites are in difficult locations where the public are passing by, often in large numbers.

It is all the more important that CDM regulations are adhered to and that contractors appoint an industry-experienced, independent CDM Co-ordinator from a bona fide Health and Safety Consultants. That person will be responsible for ensuring that the design and associated plans build in safety from the outset and that every contractor is involved with the detailed make-up of the plan of works.

McCormack Benson Health and Safety act as expert consultants and CDM Co-ordinators to the construction sector: they never forget that they are acting in the interests of the contractors that employ their services, while helping them to meet their legal obligations and their Duty of Care to both workers and to the general public.

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