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MAJOR CONTRACTOR SITE FENCING PROVED UNSTABLE

Passer-by suffers serious injury after site hoarding collapse

Thomas Vale Construction plc has been fined after a woman suffered life-changing head injuries when she was hit by a section of fencing that collapsed in a gust of wind during the refurbishment of a college in Kidderminster in May 2012.

The 56-year-old woman from Kidderminster was walking past the site when two sections of the hoarding collapsed knocking her down and leaving her unconscious.

The woman suffered substantial head injuries, including severe concussion, a gash on the head and fluid and bruising on the brain. The injuries affected her balance and senses of hearing, smell and taste. She spent 16 days in hospital and was unable to work for seven months.

Kidderminster Magistrates heard (31 March) that the incident occurred two weeks after another part of the perimeter fence collapsed in the wind, although nobody was injured on that occasion.

Solid fencing had been erected to stop dust and debris from escaping. The firm discounted using concrete foundations for the fence in view of the underground services which would be disrupted and the fence needed to be moved at intervals for deliveries.

HSE argued the firm:

  • failed to seek expert advice on fixing the problem after the first incident;
  • left the securing and re-building of the fence to inexperienced workers without the correct training; and
  • failed to recognise the potential vulnerability of the whole perimeter fence and only strengthened and stabilised the section that collapsed.

The project in a busy pedestrianised town centre should have been subject to a thorough risk assessment and competent design to prevent what could be a ‘foreseeably catastrophic’ results.

Fencing constructed using “guesswork”

Thomas Vale Construction plc of Worcester Road, Stourport, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,250.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Jo Anderson said:

“Thomas Vale Construction had a duty to its workforce and to members of the public to ensure the hoarding around the site was safe.

This fencing was constructed using guesswork. The company failed to seek expert advice in order to ensure the hoarding was designed correctly and did not consider the substantial force which strong wind can impart on solid hoardings.

This woman, who had parked and was on her way to the shops, suffered life-changing head injuries in what was a preventable incident. Without doubt, though, we could easily have been dealing with a fatal incident.”

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