Bricklayer Suffers Life-Changing Injuries In Wall Collapse Horror

Man Forced To Leave Job He Loved Following Incident

06.10.2011

A bricklayer who has won a battle for justice over life-changing leg injuries he suffered when a wall collapsed on top of him at work has called on employers in the construction industry not to ignore their safety responsibilities.

Mark Vardy, from Sheffield, was forced to leave the job he loved following the incident at the city’s Staveley Road in 2006, when an unsafe boundary wall at a construction site toppled onto his left leg and fractured his tibia in two places.

Now, after specialists at national law firm Irwin Mitchell helped him to access funds from employer Hopedale Construction Ltd and Whitemoor Design Build Ltd, to cover lost earnings and his care needs, he is urging firms to ensure safety is a priority and incidents like the one which changed his life are not repeated.

Sally Rissbrook, the workplace injury expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Sheffield office who helped Mr Vardy in relation to his claim, said: “Before the accident, our client was considered to be one of the fittest men in his team. However, due to his injuries he was unable to work for around a year and was then forced to leave his labouring role to teach at Sheffield College.

“It is a shocking and unfortunate truth that his story is not uncommon and we often see the devastating impact that workplace injuries, particularly those suffered in the construction industry, can have on many people. This has to stop and employers cannot ignore their duty to protect workers from fully preventable risks.”

Mark Vardy, 42, worked for Hopedale Construction both as a contractor and an employee for over a decade before the incident, which took place at a new apartment block development in November 2009. Hopedale, alongside Roger Bullivant Ltd and Whitemoor Design Build Ltd, had been involved in preparing the area before Mark and his team became involved.

He explained: “I’ve always been involved in the construction industry and, at that point, it was all I’d ever known as a job. The day of the accident was just another day for me, with myself and a colleague being told by our boss to work on removing masonry and plaster off specific walls across the site with a drill.”

Mr Vardy was working on his own on a freestanding boundary wall when disaster struck and left him with injuries which continue to affect his life.

He outlined: “The wall had no shoring, clamps and did not tie to any return wall – I believe it was being used as a makeshift boundary to keep people from trespassing or walking onto the site.

“While I was busy working on removing plaster from it, I noticed something move out of the corner of my eye and saw the wall move slightly. My first thought instinctively was to run away, but I was not quick enough.”

After hearing a thud, the bricklayer turned and saw that the wall had pinned his left leg to the ground.

Recalling his horror, he said: “I started screaming and my colleagues came running over to help. They removed the bricks and my manager called 999. I felt completely sick and couldn’t stop panicking.”

Mark was stretchered into an ambulance and taken to A&E at Northern General Hospital, where doctors confirmed he had broken his leg in two places. Following the incident, an inspection of the boundary walls revealed they were unsafe and taken down.

Mark was kept in hospital for only two days, but the consequences of the wall collapse have had a long-term impact on his life.

He recalls: “It was almost a year until I could return to full-time work with Hopedale Construction, which was incredibly difficult to take considering I was generally very healthy and active before the incident.

“I used to spend so much time playing with my children and going swimming or cycling but, for a long time after the incident, I just couldn’t do anything.

“I believe the problems I suffered and the medication I was on also aggravated an existing blood disorder I have – Protein S deficiency – which means I’m more prone to blood clots. Being immobile is very dangerous to me.”

Despite struggling on at Hopedale Construction for several months, Mark left his job to take a lower-paid job as a bricklaying tutor at Sheffield College.

He added: “It was horrible having to leave a job that I’ve enjoyed for so long but I had little choice considering how the leg injuries I suffered impacted on my mobility.

“The wall collapse has completely changed my life and it has been very difficult in many ways to come to terms with.

“I just want my story to ensure construction firms wake up to the dangers of such work and ensure they do everything they can to learn lessons  so the same problems do not happen again.”

Sally Rissbrook of Irwin Mitchell added: “Workplace safety must never be taken for granted, particularly in the construction sector where workers can face so many risks.

“While it is pleasing to have helped Mark secure a settlement – albeit without an admission of liability – we will continue to call for improvements in safety standards to ensure that employers stand up and take responsibility for providing proper protection to workers.

“Like many of our clients, Mark has been hurt through no fault of his own and it is the lessons that are learnt which will ensure the same mistakes are not made in the future. This was wholly preventable and should not happen again.”