Crane accident kills workers in work accident

A court heard today, how two workers plunged to their deaths after another colleague mistakenly loosened the bolts of the crane they were working on. The crane firm is being prosecuted over the accident.

Gary Miles, aged 37, and Steven Boatman, aged 45, were both tragically killed as the 118ft tower crane was being dismantled after being used in the construction of a school sports hall.

Mr Miles and Mr Boatman were employed by Gloucester-based crane company WD Bennett Plant & Services Ltd as driver/operators and had arrived for work on the morning of 11 February 2005, and prepared to begin the dismantlement of two cranes being used at the school in Durrington, West Sussex.

The court that they both climbed up the cranes jib, wearing harnesses and hard hats to disconnect and coil in the cables used in its pulley system, 105ft feet from the ground. Their colleague David Smith was given the task of loosening the bolts of the crane’s tower. The court heard that Mr Smith had received no training in this dangerous task and was given no clear understandings of the risks involved. He had not been shown a risk assessment form or a method statement before being asked to undertake the job.

Witnesses to the accident said that they saw the crane fall slowly onto the roof of the school’s sports hall, hitting the second smaller crane as it went down which then also collapsed. Mr Miles and Mr Boatman were both flung off the crane into the air and landed heavily on the ground. Mr Smith escaped the accident with broken bones after being found unconscious within the tangled wreckage of the crane.

The three men were all rushed to hospital, but sadly Mr Miles and Mr Boatman had both sustained substantial injuries and died. Mr Smith was treated in hospital. Miraculously no-one else was hurt in the accident as the many workmen who had been on the site just a few minutes earlier had gone for a tea break.

When being interviewed by the Health and Safety Executive after the accident Mr Smith described his role in the company as that of a “dogsbody or gofer”.

Prosecuting the firm, Nigel Lithman said witnesses heard the sound of the “creaking and cracking of metal”, a noise “like pistol shots”. He said of the two workmen: “It was quickly apparent that they had tragically both been killed”.

WD Bennett Ltd had been contracted to provide, erect and dismantle two cranes, by Willmott Dixon Ltd, the contractors of the special education needs school. The court was told that Tony Ferris, who worked for WD Bennett Ltd, was in charge of health and safety at the site but on the day of the accident he had phoned in sick with the flu.

Mr Lithman said: “In his absence there was nobody to perform the role, so it was WD Bennett who had assumed responsibility for managing the work and ought to have been doing it. As a result of their failure to provide effective management there was a management vacuum. This was a disaster waiting to happen. It is plain that Mr Smith did not understand what he was doing.”

WD Bennett denies breaching two clauses of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the case continues.

Francis O’Connor, a Director of Macks Solicitors said “Fortunately, accidents involving cranes are fairly rare however, when they do occur they often result in fatal or serious injury. This incident caused the death of two people and severe injury to a third because the company responsible failed to manage the work and to provide

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