Accidental death verdict over death of four groundworkers
It has been reported by the Norwich Evening News 24 that a Jury has delivered an “accidental death” verdict following an inquest into the death of four men on a Great Yarmouth construction project in January 2011. The men died killed when a steel reinforcement cage collapsed.
The organisations involved still face the possibility of criminal prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Jon Elven for HSE told the coroner:
“HSE will now review the evidence in light of the inquest and decide about whether further criminal proceedings are appropriate, and will announce any decision in relation to this in due course.
Meanwhile our thoughts remain with the families of the deceased.”
The Jurors returned a unanimous verdict of accidental death on the fifth day of the inquest at Sprowston Manor, near Norwich.
The men were ‘inside’ and constructing the steel cage (within a 2m deep excavation) designed to reinforce the concrete foundations of a high pressure test bay at Claxton Engineering when the cage collapsed.
CDM co-ordinator not appointed
Coroner Jacqueline Lake told jurors of the “complex and technical” evidence heard and that the inquest was fact-finding, not fault-finding, and they must not apportion blame.
She stressed it was not the task of the jury to decide if the company that designed the cage had given enough detail in plans, if the right health and safety steps had been taken or if the men had worked in line with an “adequate” method statement.
During the inquest evidence was heard that a construction design management (CDM) co-ordinator had not been appointed. Several witnesses declined to answer questions which they feared could incriminate them.
Hannah Clarke, the solicitor representing the families read a statement on their behalf.
It noted the men were “conscientious and skilled workers”, and expressed hope that the HSE would prosecute “those responsible” so justice is done and lessons are learned.
Julia Kendrick, for Encompass Project Management, said the company stopped taking on contracts in August 2012 and is not actively trading or involved in any sites. The directors attempted to dissolve the company but were forbidden from doing so by the HSE.