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Firm fined £250k after worker killed on hospital site

March 3 2014

A firm has been ordered to pay more than £250,000 in fines after a worker was killed when a concrete beam broke his back on a building site.

Guilherme de Oliveira, from Portugal, died after his spine was broken in the incident at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford on 10th November 2008, when the beam he was clutching to collided with a support tower following strong winds.

Bouygues UK Ltd, the principal contractor for the hospital project, was sentenced on 26 February after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious safety breaches in their lifting operations.

Mr de Oliveira, who was working for Bouygues through an agency as a banksman, was fixing beams across supporting towers to form part of the concrete structure for a new building. The beams were lifted from ground level to the work area by a tower crane.

He and another banksman climbed the support towers to unhook the lifting chains from the concrete beam, which was some seven metres in length and was due to sit almost three metres off the ground.

The beam was lifted into position, but the weather on the day was worsening with increasing wind speeds.

Before Mr de Oliviera was able to disconnect the chains on the beam at his side, the wind gusted at such a speed that it exceeded the safe working parameters of the tower crane.

As a result, the slew brakes slipped and the crane moved with the wind. The sudden movement caused the crane to swing round with the beam, which caught Mr de Oliveira and crushed him between the beam and an adjacent tower.

The company was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in costs after admitting to breaching Health and Safety regulations.

Speaking after the hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court HSE Inspector Dominic Elliss, said: “Although the judge was not satisfied that the company’s failings was a direct cause for Mr de Oliveira’s death, he said there was a systemic failure where a risk of serious injury was foreseeable.”

“Lifting operations can be highly hazardous and the appropriate standards are clearly set out in both the regulations and industry guidance.

“There is no excuse to ignore them and I would urge all those undertaking such work to review the effectiveness of their own controls to ensure safety on construction sites.”

If you have suffered personal injury at work, call UnionLine on 0300 333 0303.