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Bam fined £2.3m after Leeds drowning

13 Jun Bam Nuttall has been fined £2.345m following the death of a worker on Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme.

Gary Webster lost his life after drowning in the River Aire on 30th October 2017.

Mr Webster and another worker had been on a boat trying to remove a propane gas cylinder from the bottom of the weir gates at Knostrop Weir when their boat capsized. The boat had been pulled into turbulent water, caused by the considerable flow of water cascading over the top of the weir.

The 60-year-old, an experienced boatman, was repeatedly pulled under the water and was eventually recovered by a diver 14 minutes later. His colleague managed to swim to safety.

Mr Webster was pronounced dead on 1st November 2017 at Leeds General Infirmary.

Bam Nuttall was working at the time on a £23m flood defence scheme for Leeds City Council with Mott MacDonald as part of the BMM joint venture.

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A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found Bam Nuttall Ltd had several operatives who were trained and authorised to control the weir gates so that the flow of the water could be slowed down. This would have allowed the debris to float away or be reached safely by boat. However, the company failed to carry out this task.

Bam Nuttall Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined £2.345m and ordered to pay £25,770.48 in costs at Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 12th June 2024.

HSE inspector Jayne Towey said: “Bam Nuttall Ltd failed to plan the work. It failed to carry out any assessment of the risks involved with the task. It failed to have any regard to the recognised hierarchy of controls to reduce the risk associated with removing debris from the water. It failed to ensure that suitable safety measures were in place and failed to put in place a safe system of work.

“This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.”

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