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PC Harrington ‘failed’ to fully review crane safety

PC Harrington has been dressed down by an Old Bailey judge for failing to hold a tool box talk on tower crane safety prior to the death of a worker on Wembley Stadium, despite having experienced a near-miss on one of its other sites only two months earlier.

Carpenter Patrick O’Sullivan, 54, from west London, died and his colleague Martin Carroll sustained injuries to his leg when a platform landed on them during the construction of the stadium’s concrete superstructure.

Judge Martyn Zeidman described the fatal Wembley incident as “a very, very sad story” and told the Southall-based concrete contractor: “The lessons of the 15 January, 2004, should never be forgotten.”

He fined the company £150,000 over the accident.

The court was told that the firm had two previous convictions for safety issues, including one incident involving a tower crane in November 2003, and a further two prior prohibition notices – one of which was from an earlier incident on the Wembley site.

James Ageros, prosecuting for the HSE, said: “PCH properly investigated [a prior crane] incident and made recommendations. What they should have made sure of, and did not do, was hold a tool box talk.”

The court heard there was “some confusion” within PCH as to who was responsible for delivering the talk, which was why it was never held.

Judge Zeidman said: “The company was on notice of the risk of the activity. They had identified steps… but, sadly, failed to implement them.”

He said the failure to do so was a “significant aggravating factor” in the case against PCH.

PCH agreed it should not have only carried out a talk for all slingers and crane operators but that it should have gone as far as including safety provisions in its risk assessments to stop similar incidents from occurring, which it has now done.

The court heard fatal Wembley incident occurred when the crane operator decided to raise a skip of concrete to the highest point on the crane and slew the jib over the core of the building “because it was quicker”.

But as he raised the load blind, without direction of a banksman, a trailing rope caught on a platform on the side of the building. The snagging activated the shutter on the skip and concrete poured to the ground. The platform also dislodged and fell.

The Old Bailey was told it “sounded like thunder”, with the concrete and the platform falling at the same time.

PCH health and safety director David Faulds told Construction News following the trial: “We deeply regret the death of a valued employee, and we equally must not forget the man that was injured too.

“PCH does take its health and safety responsibilities extremely seriously, as reflected in the awards the judge made mention of in court.”

Judge Zeidman said the firm had won a series of safety awards, including the British Safety Council’s Sword of Honour, which is only awarded to 40 organisations across all industries each year.

Recession-hit PCH given lenience by Old Bailey

PC Harrington has cut more than 50 per cent of its staff over the past 12 months and is forecasting a turnover of just £57 million for 2009/10, less than half what it turned over last year.

The company told the Old Bailey that as of June this year it only had 561 employees, down from 1,393 at the same time last year.

It said it was also expecting its turnover, which was £151 million in 2007/08 and about £121 million in 2008/09, to plummet to only £57 million over the coming year.

The company’s accounts were aired at the Old Bailey as it pleaded for lenience in its fine over the 2004 death of employee Patrick O’Sullivan.

Judge Zeidman acknowledged the contractor had been “very greatly affected by the downturn” and gave it 12 months to pay a £150,000 fine.

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