Serious injury in un-notified construction project


As anyone involved in building safety must know, jobs of any reasonably large scale must be notified to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). But as we safety consultants are only too aware, many clients do not know of this requirement.

This is a case where the safety role fell between the gaps and neither the client not its demolition contractors made a notification until well after work had started. This put the contractors in a dangerously exposed position: to quote the HSE,

…the failure to make the statutory notification meant they (the contractors) then carried the statutory duties of the ‘client’, ‘CDM co-ordinator’ and ‘principal contractor

The client was actually MMD Mining Machinery Developments Ltd. The firm had bought extra premises next door to its factory at Cotes Park Lane, Somercotes, Derbyshire. The construction work to make it suitable for their use involved first dismantling steelwork and fittings that were not required. The chosen contractor was Instant Installations Ltd.

The team of workers was using a scissor lift platform (leased for the purpose by the client), They had as part of their task to remove some steel beams that had previously supported runners for overhead mobile cranes. One of the workers, an unnamed 47-year old, was engaged in taking apart these items on site on 3rd May, 2011.

Scissor lift used inappropriately

He was removing bolts from the steels, but the guard rails of the mobile platform were then also used to support the beams while lowering them. This was unsafe: a suitable crane was required that could safely support the weight.

Initially, single-section beams weighing 430kg each were lowered in this way. Then the man in question and a colleague tried to lower a compound beam of over 1 tonne. The scissor lift was only rated for under 500kg. The worker did not even use the stabilisers of the lift. Its alarm went off to alert the workers to the overloading. They tried several times to position the handrail under the now loose beam, but it fell to the ground.

Having been working the lift controls from between the beam and the handrail, the worker was badly crushed by the beam, in his head and chest. Now, some three years later, he still cannot work. The other worker was lucky to escape – he reported the swaying of the platform and his fear of being flung off.

Chesterfield Magistrates’ Court agreed with the HSE’s prosecution team that both client and contractor failed in this case.

These were the key items in the legislation that were flouted:

  1. Giving of notice to HSE about the project
  2. Planning demolition so as to prevent or reduce danger
  3. Recording demolition/dismantling arrangements in writing before work starts
  4. Using equipment only for its intended purpose

MMD Mining Machinery Developments only notified six weeks after the accident. Its fine was £26,666 plus £8,013 in costs.

Instant Installations Ltd was also fined, in this case £20,000, plus costs of £8,013.

It is clear that neither firm was competent to fulfill their safety obligations, and the Inspector even commented on their need for guidance. This can be supplied in similar cases by McCormack Benson Health & Safety, specialist construction safety consultants.