Lawyers Urge Nation-Wide Safety Review After Man Is Crushed To Death On Building Site

Lawyer Says Lessons Learnt Must Be Shared

03.11.2011

03/11/2011

LEGAL experts are urging building sites across the country to review their safety measures after a Portuguese man was crushed between a concrete beam and a tower and killed at a hospital building site.

The call comes after an inquest today heard how Guilherme de Oliviera was killed in 2008 when a beam suspended from a crane was caught by a gust of wind, crushing him against a tower at the Broomfield Hospital site in Chelmsford. His spine was broken and he died at the scene.

Legal experts at Irwin Mitchell, who are representing Mr Oliviera’s devastated wife and children, say that although they are pleased that Bouygues UK Ltd have implemented a raft of new safety measures since the tragedy, more could be done to make building sites safer around the country.

They are urging others within the industry to learn from Bouygues and Portscope’s failings and put preventative safety measures in place as soon as possible.

Coroner Tina Harrington, recording a verdict at Chelmsford Coroner’s Court today, said Mr Oliviera had died as a result of an accident.

She said “At 13.13 CCTV time at the Bloomfield Hospital site, the deceased sustained multiple injuries caused by a moving concrete beam partially attached to a crane.”

Mr Oliviera came to work in England on May 21st 2008, leaving his wife Albertina, a shop assistant, and children Ricardo and Bruna, to stay on in Portugal.

The 44-year-old was hired by Portscope Contractors, who supply labour to Bouygues UK, on 21 May 2008 and started working at the Broomfield Hospital site in Chelmsford the next day.

On 10 November 2008, he was working as a banksman, helping to create the concrete frame of a large scale building. A workmate used a crane to lift a large concrete beam and place it onto support towers. Mr Oliviera and another man each then climbed the towers, unhooking the concrete beam, which was attached to the crane by two chains and hooks at each end.

Mr Oliviera’s colleague successfully released the chains from his end of the beam, but when Mr Oliviera attempted to do the same on his side, the wind blew and his horrified colleagues watched as he was swept through the air and crushed against a tower.

His traumatised family are now pursuing a legal claim against Bouygues UK Ltd and Portscope Contractors Ltd, which will be heard at The Royal Courts of Justice.

Since the accident, Bouygues UK and Portscope have made strides to improve the safety at the Broomfield site. The weather forecast is displayed on a notice board, sent by text to employee’s mobile phones, and emailed to lifting managers.

A pictorial chart showing maximum wind speeds is displayed for non-English speakers, a new lifting plan has been put in place and lifting employees have been given enhanced training.

Dominique Mercieca from Irwin Mitchell, representing the family, said: “The death of Mr Oliviera was a tragedy and his family are finding it extremely difficult to cope. Whilst they welcome the steps taken by Bouygues to implement new safety procedures they are left with the knowledge that nothing will ever bring back a loving husband, father and friend.

“These safety measures should have been in place before the accident happened, but it is encouraging to see that improvements are being made and that lessons have been learnt.

“We hope that other building sites and construction companies around the country will now take the opportunity to make sure their own safety measures are as good as they can be.”