Estate agents narrowly escape death

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Estate agents narrowly escape death

4th November 2010

Two East Yorkshire employees narrowly escaped death when a four-metre long steel girder plunged through the roof of their Preston estate agents.

The improperly secured steel beam plunged 25 metres from a crane and smashed through the roof and three floors of Garside Waddingham estate agents in Fleet Street, Preston earlier this year.

Karl Tonks, a work accident specialist with Fentons Solicitors LLP, said: "It must have been absolutely terrifying for the two employees to have a steel girder come crashing through their ceiling and embedding itself in the floor next to their desks."

Pocklington Steel Structures Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an investigation into what caused the 80 kilogram girder - the equivalent average weight of a UK male - to fall from the crane.

Preston Magistrates' Court heard the construction company - who were working on a site for a new hotel complex on Fox Street, Preston - had spent the morning hoisting 17 similar girders at a 45-degree angle but had failed to ensure the beams were unable to slip through the chains they were wrapped in.

"This case highlights the importance of comprehensive staff training and strict risk assessment," said Karl. "Employers have a duty to ensure effective safety systems are in place to avoid accidents such as these. It is incredibly fortunate if not miraculous that no-one was killed or seriously injured as a result of this incident."

The investigation concluded that owing to the proximity of adjacent buildings and members of the public, Pocklington Steel should have ensured that girders were shackled to specially drilled holes and raised when level rather than at an angle.

"It was only by chance that the incident happened on a Saturday when fewer staff and customers were present in the office," said Karl. "For such a high lift - with members of the public on the ground below - it is completely unacceptable to simply wrap chains around girders in a so-called choke hitch, without securing them properly."

Pocklington Steel Structures Ltd, of Lancaster Road, Carnaby, East Yorkshire, admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by putting the lives of workers and the public at risk. They were fined £15,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,706.

Construction is one of Britain's most dangerous industries, with 53 workers losing their lives and a further 11,264 injured across the UK during 2008/09. Over the past decade there have been more than 60 accidents involving cranes, including nine deaths and 25 serious injuries.

As of this year, all crane operators must now join a register as part of a package of measures involving the HSE and the construction industry continuing to work closely together to address crane safety issues.

"It is vital construction companies ensure they use cranes safely to prevent similar incidents happening again," said Karl. "Anything that helps to improve the safety of cranes on building sites is a welcome move. I've seen far too many cases involving horrific injuries due to crane accidents. The difficulties victims and their families have to overcome to rebuild their lives can be enormous."

How can Fentons help?
Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of accidents in the workplace.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

Source - HSE