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Legal Minds

21 March 2016 / by / in

Firm Fined £750,000 for 2006 Fatal Battersea Crane Collapse

On 15 March 2016 at Southwark Crown Court, a decade after a crane collapsed in Battersea killing its operator and a member of the public, Falcon Cranes was fined £750,000 for health and safety offences.

Originally, the police investigated the incident but decided not to bring manslaughter charges. At the inquest into the deaths, which took place in 2012, the jury found that the collapse was due to the overloading of the crane’s counterweight. Charges were eventually brought by HSE in 2015.

HSE charged Falcon Cranes with breaches of sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and non employees. Doug Genge, 71, managing director was charged with breaching s37 of the Act.

On 29 February 2016, due to be the first day of trial, HSE agreed to drop the case against Mr Genge on the basis that the company pleaded guilty. Sentencing was delayed to allow the relatives of the deceased to attend.

The court heard how sections of the tower crane, which was on a housing development, separated when 24 bolts failed due to metal fatigue. HSE said these bolts were a significant safety feature on the crane’s slew ring, which connected the mast (tower) to the slew turret. When the bolts failed the slew turret and jib separated from the mast and fell to the ground.

The judge was critical of the length of time it had taken HSE to bring the prosecution. Although he ordered Falcon Cranes to pay £100,000 in costs this was a significant reduction on the amount sought by the Executive.

New sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences came into force on 1 February 2016. The guidelines require a step by step assessment based on the degree of culpability, the level of harm or potential harm caused by the offence and the size of the defendant organisation by reference to its turnover. There are four categories of organisation: ‘micro’ (under £2m turnover), ‘small’ (£2m – 10m), ‘medium’ (£10m – £50m) and ‘large’ (£50m plus). Falcon Cranes’ latest filed accounts show a turnover of £22m with a loss of £92,000.

In December last year, Baldwins Crane Hire was fined £700,000 when it was convicted following a contested trial of the more serious offence of corporate manslaughter. This was in relation to an incident that occurred in 2011.  One of the company’s employees was killed when he was driving a 16 wheel, 130 tonne crane down an access road to a site and the brakes failed causing a collision.

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