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McCarthy and Stone told to pay almost £98,000 after crane jib collapse
7:06pm Monday 9th December 2013 in News
DORSET-based retirement home developer McCarthy and Stone has been told to pay a total of £97,681 after a 45ft crane jib near one of its building sites collapsed.
The Health and Safety Executive, which prosecuted the company, has said it was lucky no one was killed in the accident in Saffron Wolden, Essex, in 2011.
Chelmsford Crown Court heard the company employed its own team of crane erectors for a project to build new retirement apartments on the site. A 24-metre tall tower crane, with a 45 metre long jib, was installed in early December 2011.
On December 15, crane erectors were carrying out a test lift when the lifting rope broke, causing a heavy block and seven tonne test load to fall onto a trailer, the court heard. No one was injured but witnesses described how the crane and jib recoiled violently.
A new lifting rope was installed, but the crane remained unused pending the delivery of a new “load indicator” rope.
But on December 23, the crane’s jib collapsed, causing the 280kg hook block to swing and fall outside the boundary of the construction site. The heavy steel block broke in two, partly demolishing a garage and fence belonging to a neighbouring developer. The bent jib was left hanging vertically from the top of the tower crane.
Both construction sites had closed for the Christmas break and no one was injured. However, emergency services evacuated 30-40 residents from nearby homes while the area was made safe.
The HSE found safety-critical high-tensile steel bolt connections had not been suitably installed and maintained in the crane jib.
McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles Ltd, of Homelife House, Oxford Road, Bournemouth, was fined a total of £50,000 including a victim surcharge and ordered to pay £47,681 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at an earlier hearing.
HSE Principal Inspector Norman Macritchie said afterwards: “It is only by good fortune that no one was injured or killed in these incidents. The jib collapse may have been avoided had the company identified and repaired any damage caused by the earlier incident when the lifting rope broke.”
He added: “Those who install lifting equipment and those who plan, organise and carry out lifting operations must ensure that these activities are carried out safely – the public is entitled to expect nothing less.”
McCarthy & Stone said in a statement: “McCarthy & Stone regrets the collapse of its crane at its construction site on South Road, Saffron Walden in December 2011.
“During the hearing into the incident, the judge stated that the accident was out of character for McCarthy & Stone, noting that the company had an impeccable health & safety record during its 35-year history and that it had cooperated fully with the Health & Safety Executive and all other authorities during the subsequent investigation.
“He added that McCarthy & Stone was a well-run company with laudable objectives in providing specialist housing for older people.
“McCarthy & Stone makes every effort to ensure that its sites are well-managed, with the safety and well-being of the public, employees and subcontractors firmly front of mind.
“Although no-one was injured during the incident, McCarthy & Stone has made a number of management and procedural changes as a direct result of the accident.”
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