No CDM Coordinator in farm injury case


Although we are going through an uncertain time when the future of CDM Co-ordinators is in doubt, the concept of a central, trained, person with prime safety responsibility will surely endure in health and safety legislation. This sad case shows what can happen when such safeguards are not put in place.

A building contractor was engaged by brothers Andrew and David Evans, owners of (among others) Gwarllwyn Farm, near Llandysul, to construct a floor over a pre-existing slurry lagoon in their new cattle barn building. This was a tricky and potentially dangerous build, and should have had the correct preparation and expertise applied to it. Instead, the brothers proceeded with –

  • No principal contractor
  • No CDM Coordinator
  • No designs or construction plans
  • No risk assessments
  • No identification of a safe system of working
  • No precautions for the required work at height

Work was proceeding, the company having erected concrete pillars inside the slurry pit. The workers attached pre-formed concrete beams on top of the pillars. Then, rather than using proper floor panels, they laid concrete wall panels across the beams. These panels had to support a slatted floor and the cubicles for the cattle.

On 12th June 2012, the contractor himself and one of his workmen were standing on one of these panels when it broke under their weight, plunging them 4 metres down into the slurry pond.

The contractor fell in head first, and suffered a head injury that left him in hospital for two months: to this day he is still in rehabilitation. Fortunately for the other man, he avoided injury.

No Principal Contractor

The subsequent HSE investigations showed that there were other significant shortcomings in the way the owners had gone about this project:

  • The sole contractor was really a subcontractor and was not suitable for managing the whole project
  • The workmen used on site had had no training or experience in construction works
  • The contractor allowed an untrained man to act as a crane driver on a 25-tonne crane
  • This old crane had not had the required proper annual test for 10 years

In general terms, the brothers had made themselves de facto Principal Contractors and CDM Coordinators as well as being the Client. They failed to fulfill any of their supervisory and monitoring obligations under these triple roles.

Had they used a professional CDM Coordinator such as McCormack Benson Health & Safety they would have had a source of advice and project management skill to help them design and carry out the project with safety in mind.

Aberystwyth Magistrates Court fined each of the owners £9,000 plus £3,560 of costs.

To quote Phil Nicolle, the HSE Inspector involved:

Farmers cannot ignore their legal duties for health and safety when arranging construction work on their farms. The contractor in this case suffered life-threatening injuries and has yet to make a full recovery. If farmers use contractors for any work they simply cannot tell them what to do and let them get on with it. Both the client and the contractor have legal duties for health and safety that can’t be passed to each other by contract.

The current official HSE data on Construction & Design Management can be found here.