Construction death – firms sentenced

Two associate companies have been fined after a worker was killed when concrete joists fell on him.

Electrician John Walker, who worked for 777 Environmental Limited, died in 2007 while working on a demolition site on Walworth Road, Elephant and Castle, London.

He was working on an area of the site near to a couple of remote-controlled demolition machines. They broke through a structural beam and dislodged several concrete joists which struck Mr Walker who died at the scene.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted after it found the principal contractor, 777 Demolition and Haulage Co Ltd, and subcontractor, and also sister firm, 777 Environmental, failed to properly plan, manage and monitor the demolition.

Southwark Crown Court was told the companies failed to prepare or implement an effective and safe system of work for the demolition, which ultimately allowed for an uncontrolled collapse to take place.

HSE explained that as the principal contractor, it was the duty of 777 Demolition and Haulage Co. Limited to ensure the health and safety of those not in its employ but affected by its work on site.

777 Environmental Limited, subcontractor and employer of Mr Walker, was brought in to undertake the demolition of the building. Its failure to properly investigate the nature of the structure as demolition proceeded led to the uncontrolled collapse. It admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, at an earlier hearing and was fined £90,000.

777 Demolition and Haulage Co. Limited of Beddington Lane, Croydon, Surrey denied the charges but was found guilty, after a trial, of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and fined £125,000.

Costs of £167,857 were awarded to HSE.

HSE Principal Inspector Dominic Elliss said: “This was a tragic incident by any standards, and robbed a family, friends and colleagues of John Walker.

“I hope this case sparks renewed focus by all in the construction industry on the importance of effective planning, constant review and robust supervision throughout demolition works.”

Palmers’ Jeremy Sirrell, who offers representation in health and safety cases, said: “Those overseeing construction works have clear responsibilities that are laid down in law. It is imperative these parties uphold their duties at all times to not only manage risk but prevent avoidable loss of life. For more information about our services, please contact us.”