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Steel pole lands on construction workers nine storeys below

11 Aug 14 Two construction workers were lucky to survive after being hit by a 5kg steel pole that fell from nine floors above them.

Ryan Smith, 31, damaged a vertebra and had to wear a neck brace for several months as a result of the incident at a renovation project in Bournemouth on 16 July 2013. Co-worker Paul Martret, 42, suffered a fractured elbow from the blow.

East Dorset magistrates heard last week that either or both could have been killed by the falling object, which was knocked into a stairwell during work from a temporary platform.

Harbourview Developments Ltd appeared in court as the principal contractor for the refurbishment and conversion of two properties on Christchurch Road.

The work involved removing a stairwell and converting it into a lift shaft. A temporary platform was created using a series of scaffold planks resting on a scaffold tube structure, which was then put in place over the opening to the stairwell.

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An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) established that work had started to fit a series of vertical and horizontal steel sections around the stairwell to facilitate the construction of additional floors and walls. The installation of the steel sections involved chipping concrete around the edges underneath the temporary platform, which created a series of gaps up to 160mm wide along the edges.

On 16 July 2013, a subcontractor placed a 1.4-metre long, 5kg piece of steel on a structural beam running parallel to the temporary work platform in order to step over it. However, he knocked the steel as he raised his leg, sending it plunging into a gap in the stairwell and towards the workers nine floors below.  They were unable to move away in time and it struck them on their back and elbow respectively.

Magistrates heard the incident could have been avoided had Harbourview Developments Ltd better managed the temporary works to ensure there was no risk from falling materials. 

The Poole-based company, now in liquidation, was fined a token amount of £1 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

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