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Construction company fined after worker dies in high winds

There are strict safety rules around operating lifting equipment in high winds, and when these rules are not followed there can be fatal consequences for workers, as the case of Guilherme de Oliveria from Portugal has highlighted. Mr de Oliveria was crushed and killed by a seven metre long concrete beam during a lifting operation in high winds.
As a result of the health and safety breach, Bouygues, a UK construction company, was fined £175,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 in legal costs.
Banksmen, also known as signallers, are used during lifting operations to be the eyes of the crane operator on the ground and to ensure the operator is directed properly. Mr de Oliveria, who was employed by an agency, was carrying out his job as a banksman at Broomfield Hospital in November 2008, where Bouygues were building an extension to the hospital.
Concrete beams were being fixed across supporting towers as part of the structure of the extension, with a tower crane lifting the beams into place from floor level. Mr de Oliveria and another banksman were releasing the lifting chains from the concrete beams when a gust of wind caught the crane, causing it to swing the beam which hit Mr de Oliveria and crushed him against a tower.
An investigation found that wind speeds had risen throughout the day, and at the time of the accident, the wind had gusted above 72 km per hour, which should have triggered a red warning from the sensors fitted in the crane, and linked to the site office. There would have been a previous amber warning when wind speeds had risen to 50 km per hour.
Unfortunately, the computer systems were not being monitored that day, which left the crane operator to decide whether to stop lifting and not the site management team.
The case was heard at Chelmsford County Court, where the judge ruled that there had not been adequate planning in place to account for adverse weather conditions, and that there had also been a lack of adequate supervision. The judge felt that if proper management supervision had been in place, the cranes would have been taken out of operation.
Breaches of health and safety can have serious consequences. If you have had an accident at work, give us a call on 01302 320621. We are specialist workplace injury solicitors and have been helping employees with their injury claims for over 30 years, so are well-equipped to help with your claim.

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