Spanish construction firm fined £3m for Fenns Bank death

Reporter:

Court Reporter

A Spanish construction company has been fined £3 million after being found guilty of two health and safety charges following the death of a worker in what was described as a “Russian Roulette” tragedy.

Judge Huw Rees told a court: ”This was a cost-cutting exercise at the expense of the safety of employees and other people.”

 The tragedy happened in July 2015 at Fenns Bank, just inside the Welsh border near Whitchurch, during demolition work at  an aluminium recycling plant.

Jose Canal, 32, was killed when a hopper collapsed.

The company Porvi Construcciones y Contratas, of Valladolid in northern Spain, was convicted by a Caernarfon Crown Court jury after failing to take part in the proceedings. It must also pay court costs of £75,000.

“Given one of their own employees perished in this accident, it’s difficult to understand the attitude taken by the company,” Judge Rees said.

The company had denied  charges of failing to ensure that employees and non-employees were exposed to risk.

Mr Canal had been involved in demolishing a hopper in a crushing shed and was on a platform cutting through a steel beam.

The hopper, not supported, collapsed in a heap of dust which remained for 25 minutes.

Nigel Lawrence QC, prosecuting, described lack of safety measures as “astonishing and appalling”.

Pointing out that regulations were necessary because an average of 60 were killed on construction sites in a year and thousands hurt, the QC added: “They just about broke every rule in the book when they came to dismantle this hopper. They failed to apply any of the guidelines.

“In many ways it’s an astonishing case – little more than a game of Russian Roulette.

“Someone was going to be hurt or killed – the only question was who and when.

“Virtually everything that should be done was not done. Workers were allowed to work at height on the hopper while people stood on the part that was to be cut.”

Mr Lawrence added: “The system of work was grossly unsafe.  People were exposed to danger.

“There has been a complete failure to comply with the law and the code of practice.

“We have a situation where the defendant did absolutely nothing to protect the workers.”

Befesa Salt Slags, which awarded the demolition contract to Porvi, was fined £225,000 with £65,000 costs after admitting offences involving the fatality and other health and safety responsibilities.

“This is a company which fell into error,” the judge said but had a good previous health and safety record.

 

 

 

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See full story in the Whitchurch Herald

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