Construction companies fined for crane collapse in Liverpool

Posted: 30/05/2012

Two years ago a 79 meter high tower crane collapsed onto an apartment in Liverpool City Centre causing extensive damage to the building and paralysing the crane driver from his waist down.

The incident happened on the 6th July 2009 when the eight counter weights, weighting a sum of 56 tonnes, broke off the crane and smashed through multiple levels of a building to the ground, making the crane over turn and collapse on surrounding residential property.

The construction company, Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd was fined £280,000 when found guilty of breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of their workers and local residents. The trial took place at the Liverpool Crown Court where a second company that was also involved in the construction, Bingham Davis Ltd was prosecuted and forced to pay a £1,000 after going into voluntary liquidation.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted both of the companies because of their decision to remove essential steel reinforcement bars from four of the concrete foundation piles. These bars were then replaced with steel rods which reduced the force the foundation could withstand and this lead to the collapse of the crane.

The driver of the crane, Iain Gillman, 55, fell from his cab on the crane into the roof of the surrounding apartments, through a hole that one of the counterweights made and then fell 6 stories to the ground, leaving him with life changing injuries. Mr Gillham suffered a brain haemorrhage, broken right shoulder, crush injuries on the left side of his body, fractured skull, broken ribs and major spinal injuries which resulted in his body becoming paralysed from the waist down.

The residents of 64 apartments had to be evacuated and some had to be rescued from balconies but no residents was injured. The damage to the apartments was so extensive, it has taken almost two years for the reconstruction of the building before it was deemed fit for the residents to return.

The HSE’s investigating inspector, Warren Pennington spoke in the court hearing and said, ‘The circumstances leading to the collapse were a mess. Both parties made disastrous errors that were entirely preventable. Whilst it is bad enough that Iain Gillman will be unable to walk for the rest of his life as a result of the failings of both parties, it is no exaggeration to say it was only by pure chance that this catastrophic event did not result in multiple fatalities.’

The HSE is hoping this case sends a plain message to the rest of the construction industry not to cut corners when it comes to tower crane foundations. Over the past ten years, nine people have been killed by incidents involving town cranes and 25 people have suffered serious injuries.

Do you think the construction companies have been sufficiently punished by the court after this potentially fatal catastrophe?

Amanda McGovern, Pali Ltd
www.paliltd.com

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