Philip Hames, of Weston-super-Mare, was working for Creagh Concrete Products on the University’s Claverton Down Campus, when he adjusted a metal prop without realising it was securing a concrete plank above him.
The concrete plank dropped onto him, killing him instantly and narrowly missing a co-worker. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the 1 November 2007 incident and has now brought a prosecution against Creagh.
Creagh Concrete Products Ltd of Blackpark Road, Toomebridge, County Antrim, was found guilty of a breach of Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £100,000 and costs of £140,000 at Bristol Crown Court.
The court was told the positions and type of props used in supporting the concrete plank were critical, however placement was largely left to the workers to decide. One end of the concrete plank rested on an asymmetric steel beam on a movement joint.
The court heard the designs produced by Creagh Concrete Products Ltd failed to communicate to workers the nature of the expansion joint. In adjusting the prop, Hames inadvertently destabilised the asymmetric beam the plank was resting on.
The propping of a structure under construction is called the ‘temporary works’.
Established British Standard and industry guidance was available to assist construction companies to plan work.
After the case, HSE inspector Ian Smart, said: “Unfortunately there has been a rise in the number of fatalities caused by the collapse of structures under construction or refurbishment over the past few years.
“Mr Hames was an experienced carpenter but Creagh failed to recognise the scope of the work he was undertaking and failed to ensure he was made aware of how critical the placements of the props were and the fact they should not be adjusted.
“Therefore, Mr Hames would not have understood the outcome of his actions. It was foreseeable he and other workers on site would seek to move props and robust steps should have been taken to prevent this.
“Since this incident, the published standard for temporary works has been revised. It provides additional clarity on respect of the safeguards associated with the temporary support of structures. It is crucial that this guidance is followed by the construction industry.”