Costain Court After Metal Frame Collapsed Injuring Workers

A major construction company and a concrete contractor were fined after a metal frame collapsed at a Birmingham construction site, knocking two workers from scissor-lift platforms.

Costain Ltd had subcontracted Bell Formwork Services Ltd to build the metal frame for a concrete tank at Frankley Water Treatment Works’ new pumping station and water treatment site.

Two steel fixers, a 65-year-old man from Brownhills, Walsall, and a 45-year-old man from Cheslyn Hay, Staffordshire, were raised nearly five metres above ground in separate scissor-lifts to take measurements of the tank wall, Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard.

Soon after, the reinforcing bar wall collapsed, bending over in a wave-like motion and knocking over both scissor-lifts with the operators still inside.

The steel fixer, 65, remained in his platform as it landed on its side and collided with a nearby support frame. He had bruising as well as pain in his leg and shoulder.

As his platform landed on its side against a nearby support frame, his colleague was propelled from it. He had bruises on his head, legs, and body. Three other workers on the ground took cover and escaped harm’s way.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the incident on November 12, 2012, and discovered that both Bell Formwork and Costain had failed to ensure the workers’ safety.

HSE determined that the steel reinforcement for the tank walls, which was 21m long and 6.3m high, was unstable due to its size, slenderness of the steel bars, and high steel weight.

Every seven metres, a temporary support should have been installed. On the day, however, only two support frames with 8.3-metre spacing were used, leaving an eight-metre section unsupported.

The HSE discovered that the principal contractor, Costain Limited, did not properly plan, manage, or monitor the work. They were aware of the risks of collapse and the need for temporary support, including a similar collapse at another site in March of the same year.

Despite this, they did not use their own temporary works management procedures, which would have included a number of checks.

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Bell Formwork Services Limited failed to ensure that all practicable steps had been taken to avoid danger to people and to keep the reinforcement from collapsing.

They then failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent the wall from collapsing and failed to recognise that support was insufficient because there was no managerial level supervision or monitoring during the early stages of the work.

Costain Ltd, of Vanwell Business Park, Maidenhead, Berkshire, pleaded guilty to violating the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £15,000 plus £1,980 in costs.

Bell Formwork Services Ltd of Pinchbeck Road, Spalding, pleaded guilty to a separate violation of the same regulations and was fined £15,000 plus costs of £1,851.

“This was a serious incident, and considering the size and weight of the wall, as well as the height from which the scissor-lifts overturned, it is extremely fortunate that no serious or even fatal injuries occurred,” HSE inspector Luke Messenger said after the hearing.

“Construction and related companies must ensure that the design and construction of temporary structures receives the same level of care and attention as the design and construction of permanent works.” Everything must be meticulously planned in order for their employees to carry it out safely.

“Both companies were experienced in their respective industries and should have performed better.”

Last Updated on December 30, 2021

Indra-Gupta

Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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