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Contractor fined £600k after child's death on site

4 Aug A Yorkshire civil engineering contractor has been fined £600,000 for safety breaches after a seven-year-old child became trapped and suffocated on one of its construction sites.

The site in Worsborough
The site in Worsborough

Seven-year-old Conley Thompson went missing from home on the morning of 26th July 2015 and was found the next morning by workers on a construction site on Bank End Road, Worsborough, in South Yorkshire.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the child had become trapped in a nine-inch drainage pipe that had been fixed into the ground in preparation for the installation of fencing posts. He had suffocated before being found the next morning when work restarted on site.

Leeds-based Howard Civil Engineering pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 13(4)(b) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay nearly £43,000 in costs at Sheffield Crown Court today.

The construction site was a new-build housing development next to an existing housing estate and busy footpaths and roads. HSE found that Howard had had insufficient fencing in place to prevent unauthorised access to the construction site – due to a combination of poor planning, poor management and poor monitoring of the site and its perimeter.

HSE inspector Paul Yeadon said after the hearing: “Conley should never have been able to be on that site. He should have been kept out. The construction industry should be aware of the dangers of construction sites to members of the public and any other unauthorised persons.

“The dangers to children gaining access to construction sites and treating them like a playground is an ongoing problem which must be addressed at all types of sites no matter what their complexity or size.

“The industry must do all it can to ensure children can’t access construction sites and be exposed to the inherent risks they present to prevent further tragedies like this from occurring.”

Michael Howard, founder and managing director of Howard Civil Engineering, said: “Conley’s death was a tragic accident, and our thoughts and condolences remain with his family, who have suffered an unimaginable loss. We hope that the conclusion of this process can at least go some way in providing everyone affected by this tragedy with some resolution.”

“In its evidence, the Health & Safety Executive highlighted the good safety record of Howard Civil Engineering and the fact that the business has not been subject to any previous convictions. However, we fully recognise that in this instance the perimeter fencing around our site had become damaged and inadequate over time.

“We have engaged fully with the Health & Safety Executive throughout its inquiry and in the seven years since this incident occurred have put in place several measures to ensure the perimeter integrity of all of our sites. We will continue to ensure that health and safety is at the heart of how we operate.”

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