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MAJOR CONTRACTORS FINED AFTER PILING RIG COLLAPSE

Defective platform design and unsafe system resulted in piling rig near disaster 

Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering Ltd has been fined £25k and ordered to pay over £17k in prosecution costs whilst Multibuild Ltd has been fined £20k with over £18k costs following an incident in which a 44 tonne piling rig collapsed onto a busy main road in Hull, East Yorkshire.

Hull Crown Court heard that the piling rig toppled and rolled across the busy Tower Rd before crushing a wall during the evening rush hour on 10 December 2007.

The road was closed for several hours until the area was made safe.

A ‘miracle’that no one was killed

The HSE investigation found that Multibuild Ltd, the main contractor,  was responsible for providing a ‘stone platform’ base to ensure stability of the piling rig. However, it “failed to design or install it correctly”.

Balfour Beatty Ground Engineering Ltd were the specialist sub-contractor with responsibility for carrying out the work safely.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Dave Redman commented:

“This incident could easily have resulted in disaster, and it is nothing short of a miracle that no one was killed or seriously injured given it occurred during the peak of the evening rush hour.

There is extensive guidance governing safe working in this sector, and we hope today’s prosecution serves to remind people of their duties so that we don’t witness an incident of this kind again.” 

Comment

Piling industry data suggest that around one third of piling rig dangerous occurrences are platform related and all are potentially fatal incidents. The economic loss and downtime are also significant.

Responsibility for design, installation and maintenance of the platform is not always well defined and understood. In the past, judgment about the adequacy of the working platform has too often been  made by the operative immediately before working on it!

A structured approach to the provision of working platforms is required covering, for example:

  • specialist contractor provides plant loadings;
  • platform designer undertakes design;
  • platform installed according to design;
  • certificate signed off by key parties;
  • platform and access maintained by designated contractor; and
  • permit to dig for any modification to the platform.

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