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ILL-INFORMED DECISION ENDS IN TRAGEDY

Demolition contractors fined after falling prop fatality

Two demolition companies have been fined a total of £115k after a labourer died when a steel prop was removed and he was crushed by a failing concrete slab.

John F Hunt Demolition Ltd and Bayoak Demo Ltd of London both pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches concerning the death of 29-year-old Rafał Przestrzelski in 2005.

Removal of props not properly planned

The Old Bailey heard that in July 2005 Mr Przestrzelski was employed as a labourer by demolition contactor Bayoak Demo Ltd. The project was managed by principal  contractor John F Hunt Demolition Ltd.

Mr Przestrzelski was instructed to remove a number of steel props supporting a slab of concrete during a demolition project in London. As each prop was removed the load imposed on the remainder increasesd until the final one was carrying the entire load.

When the final prop was removed the slab fell to the ground and Mr Przestrzelski crushed causing fatal internal injuries.

Collapse was inevitable without proper survey

Investigation by the Metropolitan Police and HSE found that a full structural survey of the relevant section of the building had not been undertaken.

Collapse was inevitable as the structure was not, as assumed by the defendants, physically tied to the building.

John F Hunt Demolition Ltd of Essex pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 3 and was ordered to pay £110k in fines and prosecution costs.

Bayoak Demo Ltd, of Barking in London pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 2 and was ordered to pay £38k.

The sentencing judge said that “the original plan was departed from and noone thought to produce a revised method statement. Had that been done this tragic accident would have been avoided”

Basic error of judgement caused death

HSE Inspector Giles Meredith said: “This was a lengthy joint investigation between the Metropolitan Police and HSE, which found Rafal Przestrzelski was the innocent victim of a basic error of judgement by others that cost him his life.

“There are lessons to be learned both about the importance of carrying out detailed surveys and also about making sure that the right people are consulted at the right time. The price of making an ill-informed decision about the structure was enormous.”

Howard Cohen for CPS said: “This case clearly demonstrates that there will be consequences for companies if they do not uphold the necessary safety standards. The breaches in this case had the most serious and tragic of outcomes. The CPS takes health and safety offences very seriously and will consider prosecution of any company that fails to protect employees and others with whom they come into contact.”

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