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PLANNING AND DESIGN ERRORS BEHIND FOUR DEATHS

Prison sentence and fines follow steel cage collapse tragedy

Two companies have been fined a total of £700,000 and a director has received a suspended prison sentence following the fatal crushing of four workers at an excavation site in Norfolk in January 2011.

The Court at the Old Bailey heard that the  workmen were constructing a large steel structure as part of the foundation for a large pressure test facility at Claxton Engineering Services in Great Yarmouth when the structure (weighing several tonnes) collapsed on top of the group.

The structure prior to the collapse

A large-scale emergency response was undertaken to rescue the trapped workers. However, Adam Taylor, 28, 41-year-old Peter Johnson and brothers Thomas Hazelton, 26 and Daniel Hazelton, 30, were all pronounced dead at the scene.

The excavation for the horizontal test facility was some 23m long, 3m wide and 2m deep. The horizontal steel cage being constructed would have weighed about 32 tonnes when completed.

The men were working for Hazegood Construction Ltd. Daniel Hazelton was an employee, while the other three were self-employed contractors. Encompass Project Management Ltd was the CDM 2007 Principal Contractor, with Hazegood operating as a contractor.

Project needed to be planned, designed, managed and monitored effectively

The steel structure after the collapse

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found serious flaws in the planning, management and monitoring of this complex project on the part of Claxton as well as Encompass and its company director David Groucott.

  • Claxton Engineering Services Ltd – of Ferryside, Ferry Road, Norwich pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000.
  • Encompass Project Management Ltd – of The Gables, Old Market Street, Thetford, Norfolk pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000.
  • David Groucott – of Diss, Norfolk, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of Health and Safety at Work Act. He was sentenced to a seven and a half month custodial sentence, suspended for two years. He was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work within 12 months, and also ordered to pay costs of £7,500.
  • Hazegood Construction Ltd – charges were ordered to lie on file.

HSE Construction Division Head of Operations Annette Hall said:

“Those sentenced today failed the four workers who died. They didn’t carry out their legal duties, leading to the events which caused their deaths.

This was a long term, large scale and complex civil engineering project which needed to be planned, designed, managed and monitored effectively. The tragedy here is that, in the months leading up to the accident, any one of these parties could and should have asked basic questions about building the structure safely.

Such an intervention could have avoided the tragic outcome of this entirely preventable accident.”

Guidance

The Temporary Works Forum (TWf) has published a safety bulletin aimed at those specifying, managing, designing, detailing and installing reinforcement cages concerning key issues to ensure stability and safety.

This TWf guidance, Stability of reinforcement cages prior to concreting is being update presently. Research work is also on-going at City, University of London and Swansea University into the strength and stability of steel reinforcement cages in their temporary state.

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