TWO construction firms have been fined after a Whiston man was left paralysed from the waist down following an “entirely preventable” crane collapse.
Crane driver Iain Gillham, 55, fell from his cab when the 79-metre-high tower crane he was operating collapsed in Liverpool in July 2009.
Following a detailed investigation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) subsequently prosecuted the site’s principal contractor, Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd, and structural engineering company Bingham Davis Ltd.
Liverpool Crown Court heard how the crane fell onto a partially constructed apartment block, across a road and came to rest on the Chandlers Wharf apartments.
Eight counterweights on the crane, weighing a total of 56 tonnes, broke free and crashed through the roof and six floors of the building.
Mr Gillham suffered multiple injuries including a brain haemorrhage, fractured skull, broken right shoulder, broken ribs, crush injuries to his left side, and major spinal injuries which resulted in his legs being paralysed.
Nobody inside the building was injured but residents had to be evacuated from the 64 apartments, and some were rescued from their balconies.
The HSE investigation found that the crane’s foundation could not cope with the forces generated by the crane.
During the construction of the foundation, both Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd and Bingham Davis Ltd agreed to cut away essential steel reinforcement bars from the four concrete foundation piles, so that the crane’s feet could sit on top on them.
These were replaced with four steel rods in each pile.
Both companies were found guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act by failing to ensure the safety of workers or residents.
Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd, of Church Street in Heage, Derbyshire, was fined £280,000. A decision on prosecution costs will be made separately.
Bingham Davis Ltd, formerly of Temple Street in Liverpool, has ceased trading since the crane collapse after going into voluntary liquidation. The company was fined a nominal £1,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Warren Pennington said: “Whilst it is bad enough that Iain Gillman will be unable to walk for the rest of his life as a result of the failings of both parties, it is no exaggeration to say it was only by pure chance that this catastrophic event did not result in multiple fatalities and significantly more damage to property.
“Both parties made disastrous errors that were entirely preventable. The original error was made by Bingham Davis Ltd, which failed to spot a basic mistake in its calculations for the loadings imposed by the crane.
“And neither company did enough to check what the result would be of cutting away this essential steel reinforcement and replacing such with steel rods.”