This article was published in Construction News on 27 April 2015
For further information, please contact Ben Drew, Partner, Fladgate LLP (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A recent case has shown that small sites combined with last-minute changes can be disastrous – so pay attention to variations.
A recent case before the Southwark Crown Court highlighted that small sites with last-minute changes are a particularly dangerous combination. Variations require as much attention as the original design. In this case, however, the health and safety implications were disastrously overlooked when there was a late change to the method of work.
Background to the case
The work involved the excavation of a basement and the underpinning of supporting walls. The excavation technique was basic to say the least – by hand and the use of a rope and bucket to remove the sand ballast from the trench. A Mr Milosavlevici was employed by Siday Construction Limited to work on digging the trench. Unfortunately the side wall collapsed and he was crushed to death.
A Mr Golding had been engaged as a health and safety consultant to provide advice to the contractor, and was responsible for drafting a method statement.
The Health and Safety Executive and the police commenced a joint investigation and brought proceedings against Conrad Sidebottom, the commercial director of Siday, for gross negligence manslaughter and, in relation to Mr Golding, offences under the Health & Safety at Work Act (HSWA).
What went wrong
During criminal proceedings it became apparent that several things had gone wrong:
Revealing custodial sentence
Unsurprisingly, both individuals were convicted by a jury at the Crown Court. Mr Sidebottom was sentenced to three years and three months’ in prison. However, it is the nine months’ sentence for a breach of Section 7 of the HSWA that Mr Golding received which is the most eye-catching, as this was one of the first times a court has imposed an immediate custodial sentence on an external safety consultant.
There are various lessons that can be learned from this tragic case:
Had all the excavations on site been properly shored and propped, the fatal collapse simply would not have happened and the devastating consequences for all concerned would have been avoided.