Architects and construction firm fined after worker falls nine metres to his dea

An architect’s practice and a construction company involved in a Somerset development have today been fined a total of £195,000 following a fatality on the site.

Express Park Construction Company Limited (EPCC), of Harley Street, London, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failing to safely manage subcontractors working for it.

The architects involved, Oxford Architects Partnership, of Bagley Croft, Hinksey Hill, Oxford, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 13, and 14, of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994, which require designers to take safety considerations into account.

EPCC was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £68,000 and Oxford Architects Partnership was fined £120,000 and ordered to pay costs of £60,000 at Bristol Crown Court today (29/07/2010).

The court heard that on 26 January 2005 David Cairns (64) was working for EPCC sub-contractors H&F Air Conditioning Limited, at the newly-built ‘Exchange’ building at Express Park in Bridgwater, Somerset.

Mr Cairns was working on the air conditioning plant, which was built on a platform accessed via a ladder at the edge of a flat roof. The roof only had a low parapet, which was not high enough to prevent Mr Cairns falling nine metres to the ground.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sue Adsett, said:

“This is a tragic case where both the failings of the construction firm and the architects led to Mr Cairns’ death. While it is rare for designers to be charged with breaching health and safety legislation, they must be aware they can be held responsible where bad design is an important contributory factor to a work-place fatality.

“Designers must ensure that plant and equipment can be accessed safely, and that safety harnesses are only used as a last resort. HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against any company or individual who fails to carry out their health and safety duties, especially when that failure results in a tragedy, as in this case.”

Mr. Cairn’s family, who were at court, said:

“The loss of David has deeply affected us all and he will be greatly missed. Our hope is that lessons are learnt within the construction industry so that other similar incidents are prevented. Safety should be paramount during all stages of the building process so that another family doesn’t have to suffer the loss that we have.”