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MAJOR CLIENT FAILED TO COMPLY WITH CDM DUTIES

Death during dismantling project highlights importance of PC role

Refresco Gerber UK Ltd, an international smoothie and fruit juice company, has been sentenced for safety failings after an engineer died when he was struck by falling pipework during work to decommission a former factory in South Wales.

Gavin Bedford, 24, was involved in dismantling and demolishing a section of industrial pipework at the site in Llantrisant on 16 June 2010 when the structure, weighing around 300kg collapsed.

The electro-mechanical engineer sustained critical head injuries and died three days later in hospital. Mr Bedford could have been lying injured for up to 40 minutes before he was found trapped unconscious under the pipes.

Gerber Juice, now trading as Refresco Gerber UK Ltd, was prosecuted after a joint investigation by HSE and South Wales Police discovered the company failed to adequately plan and resource the decommissioning work.

Newport Crown Court heard (16 May) the factory closed in 2010 and Mr Bedford was one of a small number of employees temporarily employed to assist teams of specialist contractors in stripping the factory of plant, machinery and services.

Client decided to take on Principal Contractor role

During the decommissioning, the factory had become a construction site and Gerber elected to plan, manage and monitor the project themselves instead of appointing a competent Principal Contractor.

The company overlooked hazardous tasks e.g. removal of overhead pipes and supporting structures and the work fell to the in-house engineers. The court heard this work was not been adequately planned, risk assessed, communicated or monitored. Safety systems that Gerber used to manage its specialist contractors were not used to manage its own engineering staff on the same site.

Investigators established that the collapse was caused by bolts and structural elements being removed in an unsafe sequence. This was caused by the absence of written plan explaining how the structure was to be taken apart.

The Court also heard that a production manager for the juice factory was in charge of the decommissioning project, despite never having undertaken such work before or having received any formal training. Furthermore, a safety officer only visited once or twice a fortnight and was based in Somerset.

Corporate failure to plan, manage and monitor

Refresco Gerber UK Ltd, registered at Hans Road in London but based at Express Park, Bridgwater, Somerset, was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay £75,000 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work &c. Act 1974.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE inspector Liam Osborne, said:

“Gavin Bedford, a young hard-working and highly regarded engineer, was killed because of Gerber’s basic corporate failure to plan, manage and monitor a construction project.

Any demolition or dismantling work must be set down in writing and strictly monitored – as the law requires. It is also basic common sense.

If Gerber had given enough time at the beginning to think through what needed to be done, and how it should be done, then Gavin would still be here today.”

Nigel Bedford, Gavin’s father, commented:

“This type of work was obviously dangerous and Gerber should have looked after Gavin properly. There was no planning for the job and the area wasn’t cordoned off. The management involved in the work didn’t have a clue what was going on.”

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