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IRISH CONTRACTOR DEVELOPER PROSECUTED

Rebar fell ‘like arrows’ causing paralysis of workman below

The Irish Examiner has reported that P. Elliott & Company, one of Ireland’s leading construction and property development firms, is facing a possible €6m fine following an incident in 2006 which left a workman paralysed from the neck down.

The Dublin court was told that a metal rebar cage fell as it was being lifted over the heads of workmen below. The cage was secured at two points instead of four leading to the cage disintegrating mid air causing rebar to fall “like arrows” onto a workman below. 

The man was left paralysed from the neck down after suffering a massive head injury and three fractures to his spine. The company pleaded guilty to conducting unsafe lifting operations and for failing to guard openings on a building site roof.

Company CEO David Mackey expressed “deepest regret” and said the company has since produced a DVD concerning safe lifting procedures. He added that the injured workman received €3m compensation and that the company insurance premium has risen by €1.2m per year.

Load was not slung securely 

The court heard that earlier cages were attached using ‘four ties’. However, two ties were used on the cage which fell. 

Irish Health and Safety Authority Inspector Padraig Early said the banksman was qualified and experienced. He added the chosen method of securing  the load did not operate effectively.

A report by a consultant commissioned after the  incident revealed:

  • lack of “mushrooms” on rebar to prevent impaling;
  • excavations not marked; 
  • inadequate covering over roof openings;
  • risk of metal cages falling from roof edges; and
  • gas cylinders lying loose near roof openings.

The company lawyer submitted to the Judge that Elliotts had a good record over 60 years and pleaded for the judge to be lenient with the fine.

The fine on each of two offences can be up to €3m and the judge will sentence at a later date.

Comment

Lifting operations cause a significant proportion of deaths, serious injuries and near miss incidents, particularly on larger construction projects.

Recent major incidents involving the collapse of cranes have been devastating. However, the majority of lifting operation incidents arise from ineffective slinging of loads or poor control causing the load to fall or strike people working nearby. 

This aspect of lifting operations would benefit from rigorous auditing on most major projects.   

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