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Construction firms fined over Liverpool crane collapse

Two construction firms have been sentenced after a crane collapsed onto a city centre apartment block in Liverpool, resulting in the crane driver being paralysed from the waist down.

The 79m high tower crane was being used as part of a multi-million pound project to build a new eight-storey hotel and seven apartment blocks at Kings Dock Mill on Tabley Street when it overturned on 6 July 2009.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the site’s principal contractor, Bowmer and Kirkland and structural engineer Bingham Davis following an investigation into the incident.

Both companies were found guilty of breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court by failing to ensure the safety of workers or residents.

Bowmer and Kirkland of Church Street in Heage, Derbyshire was fined £280,000. A decision on prosecution costs will be made separately.

Bingham Davis, formerly of Temple Street in Liverpool, has ceased trading since the crane collapse after going into voluntary liquidation. The company was fined a nominal £1,000.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the crane fell onto a partially constructed apartment block, across a road and came to rest on the Chandlers Wharf apartments. Eight counterweights on the crane, weighing a total of 56t, broke free and crashed through the roof and six floors of the building.

Crane driver Iain Gillham, 55, from Woolton, fell from his cab onto the roof of the apartments and through the hole created by the counterweights. He suffered multiple injuries including a brain haemorrhage, fractured skull, broken right shoulder, broken ribs, crush injuries to his left side, and major spinal injuries which resulted in his legs being paralysed.

No one inside the building was injured but residents had to be evacuated from the 64 apartments, and some were rescued from their balconies. The damage to the building was extensive and residents were unable to return to their homes for nearly two years while major reconstruction work took place.

The HSE investigation into the incident found that the crane’s foundation could not cope with the forces generated by the crane.

During the construction of the foundation, both Bowmer and Kirkland and Bingham Davis agreed to cut away essential steel reinforcement bars from the four concrete foundation piles, so that the crane’s feet could sit on top on them. These were replaced with up to 5 steel rods in each pile. This action reduced the forces the foundation could withstand.

Summing up in court, Judge Gilmour said he was satisfied that it was the removal of the reinforcing steel and the inadequate replacement of the steel rods that led to the foundation being overloaded and the crane collapsing.

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