Southwark Crown Court heard that on 14th April 2014, 33-year-old labourer Dainius Rupsys from Lithuania was working with an excavator operator at a site in Grosvenor Square in London, helping to demolish a multi-storey building to make way for redevelopment.
Mr Rupsys had been burning through reinforcing steel bars with an oxy-propane lance to assist the excavator operator’s efforts to remove part of the reinforced concrete slab. Another worker had alerted the supervisor that their work had made the structure unsafe and the demolition was halted. However, the supervisor then ordered the removal of props supporting the remaining slab; less than 10 minutes later it collapsed. The court heard that the excavator may have moved back onto the slab after the props were removed.
Mr Rupsys, the 360o excavator and its operator in the cab all fell with the slab. Mr Rupsys suffered severe head injuries and died at the scene, while the excavator operator injured his back.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that in the weeks before the incident CCTV from overhead cameras showed demolition work had been carried out unsafely. Mr Rupsys was not adequately trained to use the oxy-propane lance and he had had no training on using the safety harness, which was not attached when the incident occurred.
McGee Group Limited of Wembley, Middlesex, was the principal contractor for the project. It pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The company was fined £500,000 with £66,236.22 in costs.
HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers said after the hearing: “In the weeks prior to this tragic incident workers were regularly put at an acute risk of falling. This is a case of a company wanting to have good systems to protect the workers, but not paying enough attention to what was actually happening at the site.
“This young man’s death could have been prevented. Mr Rupsys should not have been allowed to operate an oxy propane lance. Employers have a duty to check workers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and training before they allow them to use equipment.”