A Surrey construction company has been ordered to pay £160,000 in fines and costs after a worker narrowly escaped death when he was caught in a collapse of nine tonnes of steel and concrete. The company was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 in costs after being found guilty of breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Bola Akinola, 48, fell more than four metres when steelwork supporting concrete floor planks failed, causing the material to collapse, at a site in Westerham, Kent on 9 May 2009.

Mr Akinola suffered life-changing injuries including multiple fractures to his pelvis, leg and arm. He was in hospital for several weeks and was unable to work for nearly a year. He has still not regained full mobility in his left arm.

The incident was investigated by the HSE, which prosecuted Esher-based Landmark Groundworks Ltd for serious safety breaches.

A nine-day trial at Maidstone Crown Court heard Mr Akinola was helping to build a large new basement alongside an empty house that was being refurbished and extended. Landmark Groundworks was contracted to oversee the project and provide supporting steelwork.

On the day of the incident, a separate sub-contractor, Mr Akinola’s employer, had laid around 50 concrete floor planks, each weighing up to two tonnes, for the ground floor. Four planks were laid on a beam that had not been fixed at one end and only held with small welds at the other. As a result the beam tilted and gave way while workers were still on the planks.

Mr Akinola, a plank installer, fell four metres into the basement with the collapsing steel and three of the floor planks. Another worker managed to jump to safety as the floor gave way.

HSE’s investigation found that Landmark Groundworks, which operates across the South East, had failed to follow construction industry established procedures designed to avoid this type of incident. Landmark had ignored design proposals by two structural engineers that would have helped ensure the project was carried out safely. In addition Landmark did not carry out checks on the installation to ensure it was ready to load out.

After the hearing HSE Inspector, John Underwood, said:

“Buildings do not build themselves. The process needs to be actively managed to ensure that sub-contractors get the correct information and use it.

“It is completely unacceptable for a main contractor, Landmark Groundworks Ltd, to allow work to continue with a botched design, and with no checks carried out on either the design or the installation.

“This incident resulted in life-changing injuries to Mr Akinola and it was a matter of luck that the collapse of nearly nine tonnes of building material did not result in multiple fatalities.”