Companies fined and director given prison sentence over deaths of four workers

Two companies have been fined a total of £700,000 and a director has received a suspended prison sentence after being prosecuted over the deaths of four workers at an excavation site in Norfolk.

The Old Bailey heard that in January 2011, the men were working on a steel structure weighing several tonnes as part of the foundation for the large Pressure Test Facility at Claxton Engineering Services in Great Yarmouth when it collapsed on top of them.

A large-scale emergency response took place to try and rescue the workers but Adam Taylor, 28, 41-year-old Peter Johnson, and brothers Thomas and Daniel Hazelton, 26 and 30, were all pronounced dead at the scene.

The group were working for Hazegood Construction Ltd. Daniel Hazelton was an employee, while the other three were self-employed contractors. The principal contractor was Encompass Project Management Ltd, with Hazegood acting as contractor.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive found serious flaws in the planning, management and monitoring of what was a complex project on the part of Claxton, as well as Encompass and its director David Groucott.

Claxton Engineering Services Ltd of Ferryside, Ferry Road, Norwich, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 9(1) (a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000.

Encompass Project Management Ltd of The Gables, Old Market Street, Thetford, Norfolk, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs.

David Groucott of Diss, Norfolk, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. He was given a seven-and-a-half month custodial sentence, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid community work within 12 months and to pay costs of £7,500.

Charges against Hazegood Construction Ltd were ordered to lie on file.

Annette Hall, HSE construction division head of operations, said: "This was a long-term, large-scale and complex civil engineering project which needed to be planned, designed, managed and monitored effectively.

"The tragedy here is that, in the months leading up to the accident, any one of these parties could and should have asked basic questions about building the structure safely. Such an intervention could have avoided the tragic outcome of this entirely preventable accident."

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