Judge criticises 'unsafe construction' and says there was a 'substantial failing'

Taylor Woodrow has been hit by a £200,000 fine following a fatal accident during the construction of the Welsh Assembly building.

John Walsh, 53, of Redfield, Bristol, suffered fatal injuries when the cavity wall he was filling with concrete collapsed, throwing him backwards.

Taylor Woodrow Construction was in charge of the construction of the Welsh Assembly's debating chamber in Cardiff Bay and Mr Walsh was employed by the subcontractor, Ferson.

Judge Neil Bidder said Mr Walsh, a foreman, had "tragically and unnecessarily" lost his life on 15 March 2004, according to the Press Association. He called the supervisor's lack of qualifications or experience to appreciate the risk "a very substantial failing".

The judge added: "Nobody seriously disputes it was an unsafe construction."

The accident happened when Mr Walsh was on a ladder against the wall using a hose to pump concrete into the cavity. His ladder was thrown backwards when the wall collapsed because of the weight of the concrete, causing him to suffer the serious head injuries from which he died.

According to reports a supervisor from Taylor Woodrow had been on site over 10 days when construction was taking place and failed to notice that it was dangerous.

He said both companies were aware of the danger of the wall "blowing" or being forced out by the pressure of liquid concrete being placed in the cavity.

The judge said the impact on Mr Walsh's family "can hardly be imagined,” but added that he accepted the "genuine and heartfelt regret" of the Taylor Woodrow's senior management.

He said the company was at the forefront of active measures to improve safety at its many sites across the UK, used care in selecting the best subcontractors and liaised closely with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

He also ordered that Taylor Woodrow, which is now owned by French contractor Vinci, pay £71,400 costs.

In a statement Vinci admitted there had been a lack of scrutiny over the work of its block-work subcontractor in relation to the small section of wall where the accident occurred as well as an earlier failure to provide the subcontractor with the width of the cavity wall. It said: “The directors of Vinci accept the fine imposed at Cardiff Crown Court on Thursday, 18 December 2008, following the tragic death of Mr John Walsh. They would like to express their deepest sympathy to the family of Mr Walsh.”

It added: “This accident occurred despite the significant efforts of Taylor Woodrow's site management team to encourage its subcontractors to work safely and in particular to avoid work at height where possible.”