HSE issues warning on safe working environment after piling rig operator is killed on Chester construction site

The HSE has warned companies of the need to ensure safe working environments on their building sites, following the death of a piling rig operator.

Peter Roberts, 63, died in May 2004 following an incident on the Quinn Glass bottle manufacturing site at Elton in Chester.

Bedford-based firm Dawson Wam was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs exceeding £34,000 at Chester Crown Court after pleading guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

Dawson Wam was constructing 7500 piles as part of foundations when a blockage occurred in a flexible rubber hose used to connect a concrete pump to a rig.

To remove the hardened concrete it was decided to use compressed air, and during the unblocking of the last section the unrestrained hose whipped upwards and struck Roberts on the head, causing fatal injuries.

HSE prosecuted the company arguing that it failed to carry out a formal risk assessment of the cleaning and unblocking of the rig.

HSE inspector Robert Hodkinson said: “This was a tragic accident which resulted in the death of a man approaching retirement.”

“Cleaning out or unblocking piling rigs and associated equipment, such as concrete pumps and pipe work, with compressed air is a very high risk activity and should therefore have been formally assessed.”

The HSE said that water was a safer alternative to using compressed air. It quoted British Concrete Pumping Group Code of Practice which states that using compressed air should only be used where there is no practical alternative.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."