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Construction Companies Fined following Fatal Incident

Unexpected Changes to Working Method Cause Tragic Accident


Construction companies were today warned by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to keep health and safety under constant review throughout the life of a project.


The warning comes on the day when Sellafield Ltd and P C Richardson & Co. (Middlesbrough) Ltd (demolition contractors) were fined after pleading guilty at Carlisle Crown Court to charges brought by HSE following the death of 36 year old Richardson employee Neil Cannon on 9 January 2003.


The incident happened whilst work was taking place to decommission one of the pile chimneys on the Sellafield site in Cumbria.  Mr Cannon was removing steelwork inside the chimney when he fell approximately 95 metres and suffered fatal injuries.


Sellafield Ltd (then operating under the name of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd), of 1100 Daresbury Park, Daresbury, Warrington was fined £150,000 for a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work (HSW) etc, Act 1974 in that it failed to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure that persons not in its employment, but who were affected by it, were not exposed to risks to their safety. They were also ordered to pay £50,500 costs.


PC Richardson & Co (Middlesbrough) Ltd of Courville House, 34 Ellerbeck Court, Stokesley Business Park, Stokesley near Middlesbrough was fined £100,000 for a breach of Section 2(1) of the HSW Act in that it failed to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure that its employees were not exposed to risks to their safety. They were also ordered to pay £25,000 costs.


HSE Principal Inspector Mark Cottriall says: "This tragic accident need never have happened.  A safe working method had been prepared for removing the steelwork in the chimney.  If this had been followed, Mr Cannon would not have had to leave the safety of the working platform that had been built inside the chimney.  As often happens on construction projects, however, the proposed method was changed as the work progressed". 


"These changes took place over a period of time and resulted in workers, including Mr Cannon, having to work on an unprotected ledge inside the chimney approximately 95 metres above ground level.   At the time of the accident, Mr Cannon was trying to remove a girder from the ledge. The girder tipped upwards, sliced through Mr Cannon’s safety lanyard, and caused him to fall through the gap between the ledge and the working platform.  Ongoing monitoring of the work in progress should have identified the changes and the increased risk.  If this had been done it is almost certain that a way could have been found to do the work without leaving the safety of the platform".


"As this case sadly illustrates, any changes to planned work methods must be identified and properly assessed to ensure that they are safe."


Sellafield Ltd was the client and principal contractor while P C Richardson & Co. was the decommissioning and demolition sub-contractor.