Three companies that were established to support the Crossrail tunnel construction have been fined a total of more than £1m following three separate incidents on the project, including the death of a worker.
The incidents were heard at Southwark Crown Court.
Renè Tkáčik, 43 from Slovakia, died after being crushed by falling wet concrete on 7 March 2014. He was working in a team that were enlarging the tunnel by removing rings of the existing pilot tunnel and spraying walls with liquid concrete. During this operation, a section of the roof collapsed, fatally crushing him.
Two other men were injured following separate incidents within six days of one another, on 16 and 22 January 2015. All three incidents took place in the tunnels around the Fisher Street area.
On 16 January 2015 Terence ‘Ian’ Hughes was collecting some equipment from inside one of the tunnels when he was struck by a reversing excavator. He suffered severe fractures to his right leg and crush injuries to his left knee and shin.
Six days later worker Alex Vizitiu, who was part of a team tasked with spraying liquid concrete lining, was assisting with the cleaning of the pipes that supply the concrete. Due to a lack of communication one of the lines was disconnected and he was hit by pressurised water and concrete debris. He suffered head and hip injuries as well as a broken finger and was hospitalised for six days.
The three workers were operating under Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK), an unincorporated joint venture made up of three companies; BAM Nuttall Limited, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Limited and Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found a failure to provide a safe system of work relating to the operations Renè Tkáčik and Alex Vizitiu were working on. It was also found there was a failure to properly maintain the excavator which reversed into Ian Hughes.
On all three occasions, the investigation found a failure to properly enforce exclusion zones that would have helped protect workers from foreseeable harm.
Bam Ferrovial Keir, of the corner of Charterhouse Street and Farringdon Road, London has pleaded guilty to three offences. In relation to the death of Renè Tkáčik, it has admitted to breaching Regulation 10(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It has today been fined £300,000 in relation to this offence.
BFK has pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of Section 22 (1a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, relating to the two incidents in January 2015. The joint venture has been fined a £600,000 for the incident involving Ian Hughes on 16 January, and £165,000 for the incident relating to Alex Vizitiu on 22 January.
The total fine is therefore £1,065,000. The defendant was also ordered to pay costs of £42,337.28.
HSE Head of Operations Annette Hall said:
“The omission to implement exclusion zones in a high hazard environment was a consistent failure in this case. Had simple measures such as these been taken, all three incidents could have been prevented, and Renè Tkáčik may not have died.
We believe every person should be healthy and safe at work. Here, all three workers were taking part in one of the most important and challenging infrastructure projects of the decade. It was this joint venture’s duty to protect its dedicated and highly-skilled workforce. On these three occasions, BFK failed in its duty, with tragic consequences for Renè Tkáčik and his family.”
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has been fined £1m following the death of 53-year-old John Biggadike, who suffered internal injuries after falling onto an exposed metal post at Pilgrim Hospital in Boston.
Lincoln Crown Court heard that Mr Biggadike, who was a patient at the hospital, died on 10 April 2012. The internal injuries were caused after he fell onto an exposed metal post on the standing aid hoist that staff were using to support him. The exposed post part of the kneepad, which had been removed leaving it exposed.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the Trust did not have systems for training and monitoring how staff used the standing aid hoist and unsafe practices had developed.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, of Trust Headquarters, Lincoln County Hospital, Greetwell Road, Lincoln, was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £1 million and ordered to repay £160,000 in costs.
The trust has also been ordered to pay £3800 to Mr Biggadike’s family to cover the costs of the funeral.
In his statement John Biggadike’s brother Keith said:
“John didn’t deserve to die the way that he did. One day I had a brother and the next I didn’t. “
Harvey Wild, Operations Manager for the HSE said:
“First of all, our thoughts remain with John Biggadike’s family. This was a tragic and preventable death.
If staff had received effective training and monitoring in the use of the standing aid hoist Mr Biggadike’s death could have been avoided.”
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Safety in care homes has been criticised by the Care Quality Commission with 23% rated as requiring improvement and 2% as inadequate.
The CQC said the low ratings were ‘concerning’ and ‘indicate poor quality’. The study, in which data was pulled from 33,000 inspections of 24,000 services, said:
“Poor safety can mean systems and processes that are not adequate for managing medicines or determining staffing levels.”
The report found there were ‘often unsafe levels’ of staff in the care homes, and even when ‘appropriate numbers’ of staff were in place, often they were lacking in the appropriate skills to have a positive impact on safety. Unfortunately, where appropriate numbers of staff were in place, if they did not have the necessary skills this could have an impact on safety.
During one inspection of a service that was rated as inadequate, the CQC found the manager did not know what skills their agency workers had, and did not have the skills needed to support the people with complex needs.
Staff training was also a factor on safety, particularly in areas such as infection control, risk assessments, safeguarding and medicines.
The study of care homes is the first time the body has undertaken such in-depth analysis since its new regulatory regime in October 2014, and also since April 2015, when it took over health and safety responsibilities from the Health and Safety Executive. During this period, it has prosecuted five care providers.
While all five prosecutions so far have related to a breach in safe care and treatment requirements, the cases have covered a wide range of safety issues, including medication errors, uncovered radiators and use of bed rails.
The CQC found a number of recurring themes such as: issues with documentation and allocation of medicines, risk assessments, equipment, and staff training.
The five prosecutions included:
- A provider was fined £190,000 following the death of a 62-year-old man who broke his neck in a fall from a shower chair at a nursing home in West Yorkshire.
- A provider was fined £50,000 and a former manager £665 after the death of a resident at Cotton Hill House care home, following errors with the administration of his anti-coagulant medication.
- A provider was fined £24,600 following an incident when a 79 year old woman fell against an uncovered radiator and suffered serious burns.
- A provider was fined £82,430 following 14 offences for failing to provide safe care and treatment, failure to notify the CQC of the deaths of ten residents, and failure to notify regarding three serious incidents.
- A provider was fined £163,185 after two offences with one resulting in avoidable harm to a resident who died in hospital after falling out of bed and re-fracturing his hip.
R M Contractors Limited aka RMC, a civil engineering company, and a contractor working on behalf of a tree surgery company Complete Tree Services (CTS) have been sentenced after a member of the public was injured by fencing wire and needing surgery to remove pieces from her neck.
Redditch Magistrates’ Court heard that a member of the public was in her garden, when she was sprayed with pieces of fencing wire that had become entangled in a mechanical flail. As the head of the flail was lifted, ejected pieces were directed towards her garden. She was struck twice, once in the leg and once in the neck.
The incident, which occurred on 18 May 2015 sparked an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The investigation found the contractor RMC who had engaged the sub-contractor CTS to carry out the flailing, had failed to properly plan this work to ensure the suitable controls had been identified and implemented. They both failed to check the area for obstructions or follow safe procedures should such an event occur.
R M Contractors Limited, of Pipers Road, Park Farm Industrial Estate, Redditch, Worcestershire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, and was fined £180,000 and ordered to pay costs of £22,000.
Matt Lea of Little Luddington Farm, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and has been sentenced to 120 hours community order and ordered to pay costs of £3600.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Chris Gregory said:
“Members of the public have a right to expect to be able to enjoy their garden without any risk of being hit by flying debris from neighbouring work activity.”
Vertellus Specialties UK Limited, of St Anns Wharf, Newcastle upon Tyne, has been fined after an uncontrolled fire at the company’s Seal Sands premises in Middlesbrough in the early hours of 14 May 2014.
Teesside Crown Court heard the fire involved large quantities of dangerous substances including Vitride, which led to this fire being declared a major incident. The Vitride was in drums and each one burst open causing a large fireball. No one was injured as a result of this fire, but police declared a major emergency and the road was closed for several hours.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Environment Agency (EA) and Cleveland Fire Brigade (CFB) found that Vertellus failed to adequately maintain its equipment; and failed to ensure the equipment was suitable to control temperature or prevent ignition to an uncontrolled release.
Vertellus Specialties UK Limited has pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 of the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1999.
The company has been fined £135,000 and ordered to pay costs of £37,653.12.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Stephen Britton said:
“Luckily no one was injured as a result of this uncontrolled fire.
Duty holders, particularly those who could be subject to a major incident, need to carry out robust planning to prevent and control major accidents. All engineering disciplines should be used, using outside assistance if needed. Here, there was a failure to recognise how a leak could develop into a larger problem.”
A building contractor, Norman McKenzie’s who was fined £3,000 and given a suspended 15-month custodial sentence over the death of a labourer, has had his sentence increased at the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.
Ivan Reilly, the owner of Portadown farm had contracted McKenzie to assist with the construction of a three-bay farm shed at his premises.
On 20 January 2015, McKenzie’s employees Petyo Hristanov and two other Bulgarian nationals were constructing the shed roof. They were hoisted up in a box attached to the front of a telescopic handler driven by McKenzie, but had to climb on to the roof to complete the work. It was here that the sheeting became slippery when it started to rain and Hristanov slid off the roof. He fell almost 5 m and sustained fatal head injuries. One of the victim’s co-workers had tried to stop him falling and was subsequently pulled from the roof, sustaining minor injuries.
The court replaced Norman McKenzie’s suspended sentence with a custodial one which, it said, would act as a warning to the construction industry that offenders of gross negligence who put workers’ lives at risk would be sent to prison.
The investigation, led by Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) along with the Police Service for Northern Ireland, found no safety measures had been implemented and a risk assessment had not been carried out. It concluded that McKenzie “completely failed to assess the risks associated with this job”.
McKenzie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and counts of failing to ensure the safety of an employee, failing to carry out a risk assessment, and failing to take measures to prevent a fall from height.
However, the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland referred the sentence to the Court of Appeal on the ground that he considered it to be unduly lenient.
The Court of Appeal concluded that a deterrent sentence was reasonable because there is no rational reason why individuals prosecuted for such offences “tend to escape prosecution”. It said a deterrence was also necessary to warn to construction industry in general of the consequences of failing to ensure the safety of workmen.
On 18 May the Court of Appeal revoked the suspended sentence handed to McKenzie for manslaughter and imposed a custodial sentence of 24 months (12 months to be served in prison on 12 months on license). The £3,000 fine previously levied was waived.
Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has been fined for health and safety failings after a patient, Adam Withers, fell to his death.
20 year old Adam Withers from Epsom had been detained as an in-patient at Epsom Hospital when the incident occurred on 9 May 2014.
Guildford Crown Court heard how Mr Withers was in the courtyard with his mother while being observed by a nurse from inside the ward when he started to climb up onto the conservatory roof.
The nurse immediately ran into the courtyard but was unable to prevent him climbing over the roof. He then climbed up a 130-foot industrial chimney and after attempts to talk him down failed, he fell and sustained fatal injuries.
An HSE investigation found a series of failures in identifying the risk associated with absconding and how this was properly managed.
There was insufficient communication between employees and inadequate systems to ensure the risks identified were addressed and remedied.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Russell Beckett, said:
“The Trust failed to make appropriate changes following previous incidents. Had the Trust carried out a suitable assessment and made the appropriate changes they would not have allowed a vulnerable person the opportunity to end his life.”
Surrey and Borders partnership NHS Foundation Trust of Mole Business Park, Randalls Road, Leatherhead, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,769.00.
Leading safety bodies and practitioners have jointly called on the UK government to halt deregulation of safety and health legislation in light of the Grenfell Tower fire.
More than 70 leading organisations and figures from the UK’s safety and health profession, including IOSH, the British Safety Council and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, penned an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking her to “scrap the government’s approach to health and safety deregulation and think again”.
The group has also pressed the Government to complete its review of Part B of the Building Regulations 2010 – the regulations which cover fire safety in and around buildings in England – as a matter of urgency, and to focus on improving safety in the forthcoming parliament.
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), International Institute of Risk & Safety Management (IIRSM), National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health (NEBOSH), Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Unite the union have also backed the letter, alongside senior OSH professionals from organisations including Park Health and Safety, Skanska and Thames Water.
“We believe it is totally unacceptable for residents, members of the public and our emergency services to be exposed to this level of preventable risk in modern-day Britain,” the letter states.
“At this crucial time of national reflection and sorrow, we urge all politicians to re-emphasise the need for effective health and safety regulation and competent fire risk management. These are fundamental to saving lives and sustaining our communities.
We believe it is vital that this disaster marks a turning point for improved fire safety awareness and wider appreciation that good health and safety is an investment, not a cost.”
The fire at the 24-storey Grenfell Tower public housing block on 14 June gutted the majority of the building; 79 people are listed as dead or missing. Fire experts have drawn attention to the fact that part B of the Building Regulations 2010, has not been thoroughly reviewed since 2006, though most other parts of the regulations have been revised at two-yearly intervals.
In calling on the government to complete its review of Part B, the signatories add:
“Together, we offer our organisations’ support in undertaking the review – we all have valuable links to experts in this area who can advise on best regulatory outcomes. In the meantime, we welcome the government’s commitment to act and to implement the interim findings of the forthcoming public inquiry.
You have it in your power to remove immediately a further risk to people at work and outside of the workplace – unwise deregulation – which threatens public and worker safety.”
The letter has been posted on at the IOSH site where additional signatories are invited.
The full letter is as follows:
Dear Prime Minister,
There have, understandably, been strong public reactions to the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower and its tragic consequences – the largest civilian loss of life from a single event in the UK since the Hillsborough disaster.
The occupational safety and health community is deeply saddened and disturbed by the Grenfell Tower fire and all the lives it claimed. We believe it is totally unacceptable for residents, members of the public and our emergency services to be exposed to this level of preventable risk in modern-day Britain.
Central Government and the Kensington and Chelsea local authority share responsibility for building standards and their enforcement locally, as well as for the funding and management of the maintenance of social housing. These responsibilities must be backed up with good, essential regulations.
However, for many years, Ministers and others with influence over them have called for regulations, including in health and safety, to be axed as a matter of principle. Arbitrary rules were imposed to establish deregulation of health and safety, such as a requirement to abolish two health and safety regulations (and more recently, three) for any new one adopted.
This mind-set has meant that, even when it was recommended and accepted that mandatory fitting of sprinklers would make homes or schools safer, this was rejected in favour of non-regulatory action. In practice, this approach favours inaction.
Good, well-evidenced and proportionate regulations in health and safety, based on full consultation, are developed and adopted because they save lives and protect people’s health and wellbeing. They are not “burdens on business” but provide essential protection for the public from identifiable risks.
At this crucial time of national reflection and sorrow, we urge all politicians to re-emphasise the need for effective health and safety regulation and competent fire risk management. These are fundamental to saving lives and sustaining our communities.
We believe it is vital that this disaster marks a turning point for improved fire safety awareness and wider appreciation that good health and safety is an investment, not a cost.
We call on the Government to accelerate and confirm the timeframe for completing its review of Part B of The Building Regulations 2010 and to include a focus on improved safety in the forthcoming Parliament.
Together, we offer our organisations’ support in undertaking the review – we all have valuable links to experts in this area who can advise on best regulatory outcomes. In the meantime, we welcome the Government’s commitment to act and to implement the interim findings of the forthcoming public inquiry.
You have it in your power to remove immediately a further risk to people at work and outside of the workplace – unwise deregulation – which threatens public and worker safety.
We, leaders in health and safety in the UK, call on you to scrap the Government’s approach to health and safety deregulation and think again. This could be announced immediately, it does not need to await the results of a public inquiry, and is the least that the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire deserve.