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TEAM Talks: Multiple Companies Held Liable for Child’s Injury at Construction Site

Multiple Companies Held Liable for Child's Injury at Construction Site 

Wednesday 8th November, 2023

Illustration by TEAM Safety Services Ltd.


An incident that occurred in June 2019 and went to court 2 weeks ago serves as a stark reminder of why safety protocols must always be in place and rigorously adhered to on a construction site. In this case, the failure to uphold safety standards led to a three-year-old child suffering a fractured skull, resulting in significant distress to her and her family.

 

 

The Incident 

 

The heart-wrenching incident unfolded at a hotel in Dorset, where a construction site was in progress. On the 13th of June 2019, a slate tile came loose from the hotel's roof, plummeting approximately five meters to the ground. Tragically, it struck a three-year-old child who was leaving the hotel with her father and older brother after a swimming lesson.

 

The young girl received immediate first aid and was rushed to the hospital, where she was placed in an induced coma to stabilise her condition. She underwent a two-hour operation to remove fragments of slate from her head.



Lax Safety Measures at Play


This harrowing incident unfolded due to a series of safety lapses. The roof was undergoing renovation, with the principal contractor responsible for overseeing the refurbishment work. They had removed the old tiles and were in the process of replacing them with new slates. However, these new slates were carelessly stacked around the roof, leading to one piece falling off and causing the tragic accident.

 

Additionally, a principal designer had been hired by the hotel. Their role was to plan, manage, and monitor the pre-construction phase. However, they failed to properly assess the risks of objects falling from height and hitting people. The investigation also revealed a lack of consultation and collaboration between the various parties involved in the project.



A Costly Oversight


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into this incident and found that the scaffolding in use was not fit for purpose. It lacked essential measures to prevent items from falling, such as protective fans, covered walkways, or, at the very least, brick guards around the entire perimeter. These safety measures are not only affordable but readily available within the construction industry.

 

It was evident that the hotel prioritised the convenience of its guests and the appearance of the hotel over the safety of its guests. The judge's ruling highlighted the company's negligence in addressing the obvious hazard of falling objects in a busy area.


The Legal Consequences


This incident did not go unnoticed, and legal action was taken to hold the responsible parties accountable. At Bournemouth Crown Court on the 24th of October 2023, the following fines were imposed:

  • The principal contractor pleaded guilty and was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of  £15,554.78 for breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
  • The principal designer was found guilty and received a £60,000 fine and was ordered to pay £25,000 in costs for breaching Regulation 11(1) of the same regulations.
  • The Hotel (the client) was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, resulting in a £200,000 fine and costs of £143,482.04.

The Takeaway 


This tragic incident serves as a stark reminder that safety on construction sites is not an option; it is a moral and legal obligation. Multiple companies were held accountable for their collective failure to uphold safety standards, and the consequences were severe.

At Team Safety Services, we urge all construction companies and their clients to prioritise safety above all else. The duty to keep workers and the public safe is paramount, and it must be a shared responsibility among all parties involved in a construction project. Together, we can ensure that venues remain safe, and tragic incidents like this one are prevented.


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