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ARCHITECT AND CONTRACTOR ADMIT GUILT AFTER SITE DEATH

Northern Ireland firms poor assessment, design and supervision led to collapse

It has been reported by the BBC that major NI contractor Henry Brothers and architect Anthony Stewart have pleaded pleaded guilty to breaches of the law which lead to the death of a construction worker death.

Antrim Crown Court heard that a Barlow sectional building collapsed causing fatal injuries to 62-year-old Desmond Stevenson in 2006. The prosecution case alleged that the building at RAF Aldergrove was not supported effectively nor “bolted down”.

The project involved movement of ten pre-fabricated units. The risk of collapse had not been identified at the planning stage due to “inadequate risk assessment, design and supervision”. Eight of the 10 sections had been successfully moved but when attempts were made to secure the ninth, one of the walls of the building collapsed sideways.

Experts on site did not appreciate the risk

A lawyer representing Henry Brothers said the company accepted responsibility as the main contractor and that none of the other experts on site appreciated the risk. The company expressed its condolences to Mr Stevenson’s family adding:

“Henry Brothers have provided their full co-operation and assistance to HSENI from the outset and throughout its investigation.We place the utmost priority on the health and safety of our employees and work strenuously to minimise risk and are committed to continual health and safety training for all employees.”

Representatives for architect Anthony Stewart said that although he was project manager, he was a step removed from having direct responsibility for health and safety. He said Mr Stewart had not been on site for six weeks before the accident and had been shocked to be caught up in the prosecution.

Henry Brothers were fined £75,000 and their former architect Anthony Stewart £5,000. Judge Corinne Philpott commented that the incident was: 

“caused by a complete failure to recognise the risk involved with regard to the instability of this section when being relocated and being re-erected” adding it was “difficult for this court to comprehend how no-one recognised the dangers involved. It is really hard to imagine the loss of a husband and father in such circumstances, but it must be remembered what happened was not deliberate, and with hindsight, if the company and those involved could go back, they would do things differently.”

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