A leading British contractor said it will “continue to work hard to achieve the highest standards of health and safety” after it was fined £500,000 (US$653,000) following the death of a worker on a job site in April 2014.
Dainius Rupsys, a 33-year-old labourer from Lithuania, died when a reinforced concrete slab collapsed under him during a demolition project at Grosvenor Square in London.
The principal contractor on the project, the McGee Group of Athlon Road, Wembley, Middlesex, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to a breach of Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
As well as the fine, the company was ordered to pay £66,236.22 ($86,522) in costs.
The Court heard that Mr Rupsys was working with an excavator operator at the site, as part of the operation to demolish a multi-storey building.
Mr Rupsys had been burning through reinforcing steel bars with an oxy-propane lance to assist the excavator operator’s efforts to remove part of the reinforced concrete slab. Another worker had alerted the supervisor that their work had made the structure unsafe and the demolition was halted. However, the supervisor then ordered the removal of props supporting the remaining slab and less than 10 minutes later it collapsed. The Court heard that the 360 excavator may have moved back onto the slab after the props were removed.
Mr Rupsys, the 360 excavator and its operator in the cab all fell with the slab. Mr Rupsys suffered severe head injuries and died at the scene, while the excavator operator injured his back.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that in the weeks before the incident CCTV (closed circuit television) from overhead cameras showed demolition work had been carried out unsafely, that Mr Rupsys was not adequately trained to use the oxy-propane lance and that he had no training on using the safety harness, which was not attached when the incident occurred.
HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers said after the hearing: “In the weeks prior to this tragic incident workers were regularly put at an acute risk of falling. This is a case of a company wanting to have good systems to protect the workers, but not paying enough attention to what was actually happening at the site.
“This young man’s death could have been prevented. Mr Rupsys should not have been allowed to operate an oxy propane lance. Employers have a duty to check workers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and training before they allow them to use equipment.”
A statement by McGee Group managing director Seb Fossey: said: “McGee has today [10.01.20] been sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in relation to an incident at Grosvenor Square in 2014.
“McGee worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive during the course of their thorough and comprehensive investigation and has cooperated fully throughout the legal proceedings. We accept the sentencing decision and will continue to work hard to achieve the highest standards of health and safety for our employees and members of the public.
“The death of Mr Rupsys was a tragic incident and our thoughts continue to be with his family. Dainius was a popular and valued member of the McGee team and he has been sorely missed.”