Fines Issued Following Construction Worker Deaths

Two Men Lost Their Lives When A Wall Collapsed On Them

17.02.2014

A Suffolk-based construction company and an engineer have been prosecuted for safety failings on a site where two workers died.

Elliston Steady & Hawes (Building), of Great Blakenham, was fined £45,000 and 65-year-old Barry Potts, of Freston, was given a £15,000 penalty at Ipswich Crown Court.

Both admitted to health and safety breaches after Matthew Skeet, aged 19, and 57-year-old Kevin Ruffles were killed by a collapsed wall while working on a building site in Worlingworth in 2010.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the project had been mismanaged and the foundations underpinning the wall had not been checked properly.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Smith of Suffolk Police explained that the complex nature of the case meant it has taken until now for a conclusion to be reached.

He said the building in which the accident occurred had to be made safe once the wall had collapsed, so structural engineers and health and safety inspectors were unable to conduct an investigation into what caused the accident straight away.

Meanwhile, HSE inspector Lesley Balkham confirmed there were "basic failings" in the way the work was planned and managed and the incident was "entirely preventable".

She warned that building sites are dangerous places and companies need to ensure their staff are adequately protected.

"Those working in construction, especially contractors and designers, need to make sure that construction work is planned and carried out safely," Ms Balkham commented.

"Structures such as walls and excavations must be supported during construction work so they do not become unstable and liable to collapse."

According to figures provided by the HSE, there has been a reduction in the number of fatalities recorded across the building industry in the last 20 years.
 
However, the sector is still one of the most dangerous places to work and accounts for more than a quarter of overall occupational deaths in the UK.
 
In 2012-13, 39 construction workers were involved in fatal accidents.