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Paul Welstead, who had been subcontracted from a third company, DRH, was carrying out remedial painting works when he fell around 3 m through a suspended ceiling into a waiting room at East Croydon railway station in south London on 7 January 2015. He has been unable to return to work as an industrial painter.
Croydon Crown Court was told on 18 April that the companies had agreed a £12m contract with Network Rail to undertake the replacement of station floor surfaces, canopy roofs and cladding.
An Office of Rail and Road (ORR) investigation found that principal contractor BAM Nuttall had started work in January 2014. Later that year, McNealy Brown, which had been brought in to carry out steel and cladding work, approached DRH to supply painters for finishing work on the station canopy.
Welstead and colleague Robert Cutter were given a site induction when they arrived for work on 18 December 2014. However, they were not briefed on the risk assessment which required work over the platforms to be undertaken at night, for workers to wear full body harnesses and for the waiting room below to be locked.
When the pair returned to work on 7 January, they were not warned about the fragile roofs. At about 9.40am, while repainting fixings on the station canopy, Welstead lost his footing and fell through the unguarded suspended ceiling on to the room's tiled floor.
Cutter heard a commotion and walked towards where he had last seen his colleague working. He looked down and saw him on the floor with station users next to him.
The court was told that a crash deck had previously been installed above the platform buildings but had to be removed to allow steelwork to be installed in November 2014.
Plywood working platforms were specified to replace the deck above the fragile ceiling but had not been installed in the area where Welstead fell and no barriers had been erected, nor warning signs or tape to warn of the risk of the exposed ceiling.
Previous incidents in which tools had fallen from the work area on to the platform below should have alerted the companies about the work-at-height risk.
BAM Nuttall and McNealy Brown were fined and ordered to pay £7,157 each in costs after pleading guilty to charges under s 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. (See table below for how the judge applied the sentencing guidelines.)
How the judge applied the sentencing guidelines
Seriousness of harm risked:
Likelihood of harm:
Size of the organisation:
Very large (BAM Nuttall); small (McNealy Brown)
Fluctuated but exceeded £700m in recent years, except 2016 (BAM Nuttall); over £9m (McNealy Brown)
Starting point for fine:
£1.8m (BAM Nuttall); £150,000 (McNealy Brown)
BAM Nuttall reduced to £900,000 and McNealy Brown reduced to £65,000 for early guilty plea and full co-operation with HSE investigation
£900,000 plus £7,157 costs (BAM Nuttall); £65,000 plus £7,157 costs (McNealy Brown)
Coast & Country Construction and Paul Humphries Architects have been fined a total of £170,000. Exeter Magistrates’ Court was told that in 2016 a concern was raised about dangerous work practices at Manor Lodge Residential Home in Exmouth, Devon, where a large timber frame extension was being built.Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site on 1 March that year and found workers were at risk of falls from height, slips and trips and wood dust exposure.
Wessex Building Services was the main contractor on site at Mountbatten Leisure Centre when the Wessex Insulation employee was installing insulation to new ventilation ductwork on the leisure centre’s roof on 17 December 2015. The worker fell through the fragile structure and sustained six fractures to his back. He has since made a full recovery.
Window and door fitter Stuart Barnes, which had been contracted to undertake the roof replacement work, was fined £8,000 for failing to plan it safely. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that 27-year-old Luke Maslen was working on the garage roof when the incident occurred at Courtlands in Portland, Dorset on 5 January 2016. The fragile structure gave way and he fell almost 2 m, sustaining a serious fracture to his upper spine.
The roofer, whose fall was broken by a plastic children’s playhouse, sustained a traumatic brain injury, bruising, and damage to his left arm.Poor weather conditions meant that the roofer had to work on the unprotected area to cover the dormer extension and make sure it was watertight. He was at the dormer’s side when the accident happened on 29 October 2015. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the scaffolding did not extend fully across the intended work area and failed to provide protection along the edge where the roofer was working.
Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, commissioned by the government after the Grenfell Tower fire last June that killed 71 residents of a west London local authority high-rise block, found that a lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities and inadequate regulatory oversight and enforcement has led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices.