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ARCHITECT AND CONTRACTOR TOGETHER IN COURT

Project architect and contractor pay over £300k following site death

Express Park Construction Company Limited (EPCC), of London, and architects Oxford Architects Partnership, of Oxford have been ordered to pay a total of £323k in fines and prosecution costs after the death of a workman in January 2005.

David Cairns died after falling during work on air conditioning plant, which was built on a platform accessed by a ladder at the edge of a flat roof. The court heard that Mr Cairns (64) was working for EPCC sub-contractors H&F Air Conditioning Limited at the newly-built ‘Exchange’ building at Express Park in Bridgewater, Somerset.

The roof was designed with a low parapet which was not at a height sufficient to prevent Mr Cairns falling 9m to the ground.

The architects pleaded guilty to breaching the CDM Regulations 1994 Regulations 13 and 14 which require designers to take safety considerations into account during design.

The 1994 Regulations have now been replaced but a similar designer duty under CDM Regulation 2007

EPCC was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £68,000 and Oxford Architects Partnership was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000 at Bristol Crown Court on 29th July 2010.

Designers responsible for ‘bad design’

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sue Adsett, said:

“This is a tragic case where both the failings of the construction firm and the architects led to Mr Cairns’ death. Designers must be aware they can be held responsible where bad design is an important contributory factor to a work-place fatality. Designers must ensure that plant and equipment can be accessed safely, and that safety harnesses are only used as a last resort.

Mr. Cairn’s family, who were at court, said:

“The loss of David has deeply affected us all and he will be greatly missed. Our hope is that lessons are learnt within the construction industry so that other similar incidents are prevented. Safety should be paramount during all stages of the building process so that another family doesn’t have to suffer the loss that we have.”

Comment

This is a interesting case that will reverberate throughout the design community. The significance is raised by the fact that the CDM Regulations 2007 now in force have updated and strengthened the duties of design organisations

This prosecution sends the message that design practices need to embed sound risk avoidance processes within practice procedures. The design team must recognise the importance of designing to eliminate hazards and reduce risk to constructors, users and those who maintain structures.

Risk will often remain and designers are therefore required to inform others of any remaing significant residual risk so that others can manage such risks effectively.

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