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MAJOR PLAYER INACTION ON MANAGEMENT FAILINGS

Concrete firm director ignored warnings prior to fatal fall

Carillion Construction Ltd, Febray Ltd and Michael Febrey director of the concrete structures company have been prosecuted after a scaffolder died when he fell whilst dismantling a scaffold platform on a major Swansea construction project in 2008. 

Swansea Crown Court heard (13 May 2013) that Russell Samuel, aged 40, was dismantling a scaffold ladder access platform ahead of the installation of a roof and staircase on the fourth floor when he fell some 19m narrowly missing a carpenter working below. He suffered multiple injuries, including a fractured skull and died two days later in hospital.

HSE investigators found regarding Febrey Ltd:

  • inadequate and ineffective health and safety management arrangements with little or no communication, information and instruction provided to its workforce;
  • a management team on site that was inadequately trained in health and safety, despite repeated warnings by health and safety consultants; and
  • persistent and systematic failures to control risks at the site.

HSE investigators found that Carillion Construction Ltd

  • failed to ensure the safety of its employees and those under its control; and
  • as principal contractor was made aware of and had detected many failings in the safety management of Febrey Ltd but failed to gain improvement from the company.

Michael Febrey was aware of the failings within his company – his workforce had raised concerns about the site – but failed to take responsibility for the company failings which allowed this culture to continue.

Judge stresses that words are no substitute for effective action

Carillion Construction Ltd of Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) and was fined £130,000 and ordered to pay £52,500 in costs in an earlier hearing.

Febrey Ltd, of Bristol which when into liquidation shortly after the incident admitted breaching HSW Act Section 2(1) and Section 3(1). His Honour Judge Thomas said he fined the company a token amount of £85 which would have been in the region of £250,000 if the company were solvent.

Michael Febrey of Bristol pleaded guilty to breaching HSW Act by virtue of Section 37(1) and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Anne Marie Orrells said:

“I echo the sentencing remarks made by Judge Thomas, that: ‘…there was a lack of proper and adequate expertise, training and direct responsibility for matters of health and safety. The personnel, the time, the resources and the will were all lacking to address the reoccurring problems of people working unsafely at height as necessary.

Disregard for basic safety measures were left unchallenged. No one took ownership of the issue. In such an atmosphere, not only the inexperienced and the vulnerable, but the experienced like Mr Samuel, can become sloppy and complacent. It was against that background and in that culture that the accident happened.

This culture was allowed to continue without proper managerial intervention and for that reason Mr Febrey, as the managing director, must bear a portion of direct responsibility. There was a void in the company’s organisation, which Mr Febrey must have recognised, but did not rectify.'”

Inspector Orrells added:

“Carillion Ltd. had a duty to plan, manage and monitor the work. Febrey’s failing were all too apparent, moreover Carillion were aware of it.

Judge Thomas said: ‘Ultimately, what they did not do was stop it – they did not do enough, they did not achieve the desired necessary result. Nagging and warning are one thing – positive, effective action is another.

Carillion should have taken robust steps to remedy a situation which they were perfectly aware of.’

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