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    Major contractor fined after member of the public seriously injured

    It has been reported (20 March) by the Kidderminster Shuttle that Stourport firm Thomas Vale Construction has admitted failing to adequately secure fencing around a construction project site in Kidderminster town centre. The fencing collapsed in high winds and severely injured a member of the public.

    The company pleaded guilty to a charge under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 regarding the metal fencing which surrounded the Piano Building in May 2012.

    The 54-year-old woman suffered “life-changing head injuries” when the heavy fence panel struck her 16 days after another section of the fencing had fallen in April 2012.

    The court heard that before starting work on the Birmingham Metropolitan College site, the company “in conjunction with the project CDMC” decided that solid metal hoardings should be used instead of timber hoardings.

    Hoarding should be designed to withstand foreseeable loadings

    Simon Belfield, prosecuting for HSE said that after the April incident Thomas Vale attempted to better stabilise the failed panels. However the company did not appreciate that the problem arose with all the hoarding.

    He alleged a ‘continuing breach’ of law as the panels had been erected during the first week of April and could have fallen over on any day with high winds during the six-week period adding: 

    “The company failed to adequately respond to the [April 29] warning. Proper precautions were not taken as a result of the incident. Had the hoardings been designed to withstand the loading it could not have collapsed.

    Thomas Vale should have made sure the hoarding was designed to withstand any loading forced upon it. They did not do that. It fell down in two places on two occasions – the second occasion resulted in very serious injuries to a member of the public.”

    Andrew Cameron, defending, said:

    “It was not the case the company ignored the [April 29] warning – they responded to it but their response was insufficient. They could have done more.”

    He argued the failure was in the design and installation of the hoardings, meaning the breach had occurred only once but accepted it had caused a continued risk.

    He said the decision to use solid metal fencing and not fix them under ground was made along with the CDM-C to prevent objects being ejected from the site and not to disturb underground cables to a nearby electrical sub-station. He added Thomas Vale had been reassured by its supplier the hoardings would withstand foreseeable wind speeds.

    Mr Cameron said the company was “genuinely upset and deeply regretted” the injuries. The injured woman had begun separate civil proceedings against Thomas Vale in which the company admitted liability.

    Thomas Vale is due to be sentenced on Monday, March 31.

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