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MAJOR CONTRACTOR FINED OVER TEMPORARY WORKS FAILURE

Workers escape disaster as use of inadequate design drawing triggers collapse

Wates Construction Ltd and MPB Structures Ltd have been prosecuted after seven construction workers survived after more than 250 tonnes of wet concrete collapsed in 2007 during the construction of an atrium for a new Art and Design Academy at the John Moores university.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that concrete was being pumped onto the third floor of the building on 19 September 2007 when the temporary works suddenly collapsed. Injuries to the workers on site included cement burns to their skin and eyes, and bone fractures.

HSE investigators found that the supporting scaffolding was erected from a preliminary design, clearly marked ‘for discussion and pricing purposes only’.

The drawing did not include the information needed to erect the scaffolding correctly or safely and the companies failed to ensure the scaffolding was checked before allowing the concrete to be poured.

Appropriate design and checks essential before concrete pours

Wates Construction Ltd, of Surrey, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £35,591 in prosecution costs and MPB Structures Ltd, of Corby was also fined £50,000 with costs of £35,362. Both firms admitted breaching the HSW Act etc 1974.

Dave Smith, Chief Operating Officer for Wates Group, commented:

“Safety is a core value at Wates and we remain committed to continuously improving our health and safety policies and procedures.

We undertook our own internal investigation following this incident and have fully incorporated the findings and recommendations into our induction, training arrangements and policies.”

HSE Inspector Susan Ritchie said:

“This incident resulted in seven men falling roughly ten metres onto wet concrete which contained various bits of metal and wood.

The companies should have made sure they had an appropriate design they could use to build from, and that the structure was inspected before the concrete was poured.

Instead, more than 250 tonnes of concrete was poured onto scaffolding incapable of taking such loads and the inevitable happened – it collapsed. These basic errors could easily have resulted in several people losing their lives.

This incident should act as a stark reminder that if you fail to plan and manage projects properly then there is a real potential for things to go seriously wrong.”

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