CRUSHED BY EXCAVATION BUCKET

A construction firm was fined £66,000 today (FRI) after their site supervisor was crushed to death by a falling excavation bucket.

John Walsh, 40, was killed while overseeing the movement of the heavy containers by crane at the building works in Wood Green, north London.

One of the buckets slipped off the lifting bar at a height of eight metres and hit the foreman on the head causing multiple injuries.

His employers P Colohan & Co. Ltd, based in Croydon, Surrey, admitted health and safety breaches under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment regulations.

The Old Bailey heard the firm had been contracted to prepare the concrete frame for a nine-storey building for the housing firm Metropolitan Home Ownership.

Mr Walsh, a carpenter by trade, had been appointed as site supervisor and foreman although he had not received training in supervising lifting operations for three years.

On May 6, 2004, he was overseeing the movement of excavator buckets back on to the excavator before it left the site in [35] Station Road.

A ‘reinforcing bar’ was inserted between two of the buckets to allow them to be lifted at the same time.

Prosecutor Mark Harris said: ‘The buckets were observed by other workers and were seen to pull towards each other, jostling from side to side.

‘It seems there was nothing to prevent the buckets sliding off the end of the bar. One of the buckets fell off the bar, striking Mr Walsh who was standing below. He died as a result of the injuries sustained.’

An inquest at London North Coroner’s Court on 30 March 2007 returned a verdict of accidental death. Mr Harris said that Mr Walsh had not been formally appointed as supervisor and no risk assessment had been carried out.

‘The defendant, P Colohan and Co, was responsible for the safe conduct of the lifting operations.

They had not looked at how to eliminate the risks arising from the lifting operations.

‘Mr Walsh was not fully competent to be lift supervisor.’

The company, which was incorporated in 1973, has a staff of 100 and employed Mr Walsh’s father and brother in the past.

Roger Harris, for the company, said that there had not been any previous incidents since the early 1990s when it received two convictions under Health and Safety legislation.

The Recorder of London, Judge Peter Beaumont QC said: ‘The prosecution accepted Mr Walsh must bear some responsibility for these events.

‘He was a much respected employee and his loss was felt by all who worked for him. In my judgement the appropriate financial penalty is £100,000, reduced to £66,000 giving regard to the guilty plea.’

P Colohan and Co. Ltd, of Emesco Works, Lynwood Gardens, Croydon, Surrey, were ordered to pay costs of £40,000.