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Firms fined £210k after apprentice death

Three companies and a manager were fined a total of £217,500 at Manchester Crown Court last week for following the death of a 17-year-old trainee scaffolder in January 2004.

Steven Burke was killed after he fell around 18m whilst constructing a scaffold within a 20-metre high sewage digester tank Davyhulme Wastewater Treatment Works.

He was employed by 3D Scaffolding and under the control of a visiting contracts manager, David Swindell. Irlam was contracted to work for RAM Services, itself a subcontractor of the project’s principal contractor, Mowlem Group.

Manchester-based 3D Scaffolding pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations by failing to maintain a safe system of work and was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs.

Mr Swindell was found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £7,500. He was also ordered to pay £15,000 costs.

Main contractor Mowlem was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs.

RAM Services was also fined a total of £75,000 for failing to ensure that the scaffolding was safe to use. The firm was also ordered to pay £70,000 costs.

Chief inspector of construction Stephen Williams said: “This is a very distressing case which should send the strongest message to everyone responsible for the safety of young workers.

“All industries, especially the construction sector, rely on keen young people. However, employment opportunities must not come at the expense of young workers' safety.

“Steven Burke's death, at the very start of his working life was not only a tragedy, it was also entirely preventable. Had those responsible assessed the work properly and ensured that he was supervised at all times by a qualified scaffolder, then Steven would not have been killed.”