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Construction Death Lands Contractor with £175,000 Fine

The death of a construction worker crushed by a large concrete beam at a site in Essex has resulted in a fine of £175,000 for principal contractor Bouygues UK.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told that Guilherme de Oliveira, a 44-year-old working through an agency as a banksman at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, sustained fatal injuries when high winds caused a tower crane carrying the beam to swing around.

At the time the accident occurred, Mr De Oliveira was fixing beams across supporting towers that made up part of the concrete structure of a new building, with a crane being used to lift the beams into place.

Accompanied by another banksman, he climbed the towers to disconnect the concrete beam from the crane's lifting chains. The beam, which measured around seven metres in length, was intended to sit at a height of about three metres off the ground.

It was lifted into position, but the increasingly strong winds of more than 72 km/h exceeded the tower crane's safe working parameters and caused the slew brakes to slip, resulting in the crane moving with the wind.

This sudden movement led the crane to swing around, leading Mr De Oliveira to be crushed between the concrete beam and an adjacent tower. 

Investigating, the Health and Safety Executive discovered that data on the wind speeds hitting the crane was being recorded by a sensor, but the information was not being monitored. Instead, crane operators were left to check the wind speed displays and would only stop working if they deemed it necessary.

The Health and Safety Executive declared there had been insufficient planning and supervision during the construction project.

Bouygues UK pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8 of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations and was fined £175,000, plus costs of £80,000.

"Although the judge was not satisfied that the company's failings were a direct cause for Mr de Oliveira's death, he said there was a systemic failure where a risk of serious injury was foreseeable," said HSE inspector Dominic Elliss.

By Chris Stevenson