Safety failures in Crossrail tunnels result in £1m fine

Crossrail Tunnel
Image by Matt Brown

On high-profile high-cost highly technical infrastructure projects, you always hope that standards of health and safety practice would reach the same heights.

Unfortunately, this has not been entirely true of the £14.8bn Crossrail project, the railway line being constructed between Reading and Shenfield, Essex, through central London.

“Consistent Failure”

The Health and Safety Executive recently investigated three incidents, one fatal, which took place between 2014 and 2015 in the tunnels beneath Holborn. 

They found that there had been a “consistent failure” by Bam Ferrovial Kier to protect its skilled workforce, by enforcing clear exclusion zones around dangerous areas. In late July at Southwark Crown Court, BFK, a joint venture of three construction giants, was fined over £1 million.

Unsafe zones

In March 2014 Rene Tkacik was working close to freshly sprayed concrete to clean reinforcement bars when a quantity of wet concrete fell from the tunnel roof, killing him. Ten months later, there were two more incidents within days of each other: Ian Hughes suffered severe leg injuries when he was struck by a reversing excavator; Alex Vizitiu was hit by pressurised water and concrete debris causing him head and hip injuries.

“Simple measures” to enforce and mark out exclusion zones around hazardous work could have prevented these accidents, said investigators. Prosecutors had noted that workers were confused about the location of the exclusion zone where Tkacik died; they relied on briefings at the start of each shift, and there had been no physical barrier to visibly mark the zone.

Following Tkacik’s shocking death and injuries to its workers - and the heavy fine for its failings - BFK should be aiming for the loftiest standards of safety for its multi-skilled technical workforce.

McCormack Benson Health and Safety provides specialist construction consultants who can assist contractors to maintain high standards of safety (and never overlook the “simple measures”) whatever the scale of their project.