Four employees tragically died while carrying out a job at an excavation site.
The four employees were working on constructing a steel structure as part of the foundation for a large Pressure Test Facility (PTF) at Claxton Engineering Services Limited in Great Yarmouth. The partially-built steel structure weighed several tonnes and would have weighed 32 tonnes on completion. The excavation for the PTF was more than 23m long, 3m wide and 2m deep.
Sadly, the structure collapsed on top of the employees.
Despite a swift emergency response to try and rescue the trapped men, they were all pronounced dead at the scene.
After the tragic deaths of the workers, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation. Their investigation found several flaws in the planning, management and monitoring of this complex project on the part of employers and contracting agencies alike.
In the U.K., construction industry is responsible for 31% of deaths at work and 10% of major workplace injuries, according to HSE statistics. Safety of heavy equipment operators in particular is a major concern in excavation that needs to be addressed urgently in order to prevent further preventable deaths and injuries. It’s important that these problems can be addressed to ensure a safe construction site to work on.
Punishment and fines
Claxton Engineering Services pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007:
Claxton was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000.
Encompass Project Management pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. Act 1974, namely:
Encompass was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000.
Company Director Mr Groucott pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. This holds directors, managers, secretaries to account where they were acting in the capacity of the company. He was sentenced to a 7 year and 6 months custodial sentence, suspended for 2 years. He was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work within 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £7,500.
There wasn’t enough evidence for a case to charge and/or prosecute Hazegood Construction. The charges have been laid on file and may be reinstated at a later date should there be further evidence.
Companies failure to protect their employees
HSE Construction Division Head of Operations, Annette Hall, highlighted the importance of keeping employees safe at work:
“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.”