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    Concrete beam crushed lifting banksman during high winds

    Bouygues UK Ltd has been ordered to pay more than £250,000 in fines and costs for safety failings after a workman died when he was crushed by a large concrete beam during a lifting operation in strong winds.

    Guilherme de Oliveira, aged 44, sustained fatal crush injuries in the incident at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex on 10 November 2008.

    Chelmsford Crown Court heard that Mr de Oliveira was working as a banksman. He was fixing beams across supporting towers to form part of the concrete structure for a new building. The beams were lifted from ground level to the work area by a tower crane.

    Mr de Oliveira and a fellow banksman climbed the support towers to unhook the lifting chains from the concrete beam some 7m metres in length where he was to sit some 3m above ground.

    The beam was lifted into position and before Mr de Oliveira was able to remove the chains on the beam the wind gusted at such a speed that it exceeded the safe working parameters of the tower crane.

    Consequently the slew brakes slipped and the crane moved with the wind causing the crane and beam to move crushing him between the beam and an adjacent tower. The wind speed at that time was in excess of 72km/h.

    Wind speed data not monitored

    HSE investigators found four tower cranes were in operation at the site all fitted with a sensor that measured wind speed and provided warnings at pre-set values: an amber warning at 50 km/h or more and a red warning at 72km/h or more.

    The sensors were linked to a computer in the site office to allow managers to monitor data and supervise lifting operations. However, at the time of the incident the data was unmonitored and on-site arrangements allowed crane operators to check their own wind speed displays. The crane operators would only stop lifting if they considered it necessary, and not necessarily when the maximum wind speed limit was exceeded.

    HSE concluded that there was inadequate planning and supervision of the work. Had a suitable management procedure been in place and followed there would have been the opportunity to properly consider the deteriorating weather conditions and then take the tower cranes out of operation.

    Systemic failure despite risk of serious injury

    Bouygues UK Ltd, of York Road, London, SE1 was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations.

    Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Dominic Elliss, said:

    “Although the judge was not satisfied that the company’s failings was a direct cause for Mr de Oliveira’s death, he said there was a systemic failure where a risk of serious injury was foreseeable.”

    Lifting operations can be highly hazardous and the appropriate standards are clearly set out in both the regulations and industry guidance. There is no excuse to ignore them and I would urge all those undertaking such work to review the effectiveness of their own controls to ensure safety on construction sites.”

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