After a worker was seriously injured after falling down a lift pit, a Cardiff construction company was fined over £140,000 and ordered to pay costs.
Jehu Project Services Ltd pleaded guilty at Newport Crown Court to violating Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £143,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £15,029.30.
On July 8, 2015, at a construction site in Pontcanna, Cardiff, an incident occurred.
Stephen Harrison, a specialist drilling contractor hired by Jehu to help refurbish a 73-bed care home, fell into the basement of a lift pit that was being built.
Harrison stepped onto the ground floor after working from a tower scaffold, but he landed on a loose concrete block, causing him to fall backwards, head-first, into a skip full of rubble on the floor below.
After stabilising Harrison, a specialist Fire and Rescue team attached him to the hook of a tower crane and winched him out of the pit, over the site, and into the carpark of a nearby housing estate, where an ambulance was waiting.
Harrison was hospitalised for 18 days after suffering shattered vertebrae, five broken ribs, and a punctured lung. He is still recovering, and while he is not paralysed, his injuries have changed his life, and he will not return to work.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and discovered that Jehu had been using a system of lightweight barriers around the drop, as well as bean bags at the bottom of the hole, but these were incompatible with all of the work that needed to be done by the various contractors and had been removed.
Following the incident, all dangerous areas were surrounded by scaffolding.
There were numerous management failings associated with this project, according to Newport Crown Court, including a lack of effective site management and supervision, a construction plan that did not properly consider obvious working at height risks, and a lack of an effective Temporary Works Management System.
“Jehu had been given many warnings in the past by HSE about the lack of effective planning, managing, and monitoring on their construction sites, as well as warnings about unsafe working at height,” said HSE inspector Liam Osborne, who brought the case. The court heard about some really positive steps the company is now taking to correct these issues, including significant management changes.
“It is critical that construction firms thoroughly consider the risks involved before beginning work; they must then ensure that there is a workable plan in place to iron out or manage the resulting dangers.”
“There is a clear hierarchy for managing work at height risks; site managers must prevent it if at all possible and then provide appropriate fixed barriers.” Lower-order measures, such as soft-landing systems or harness use, should be used only as a last resort and only when it is safe and appropriate to do so.”