London worker's death may lead to compensation

Death of London worker could lead to compensation 25605

The death of an east London worker that was crushed to death by a falling mast could lead to a compensation claim, after the man's employers were found liable for the accident.

Construction engineering specialist Nigel Sewell, 57, died after being crushed during an incident at Wireless Station Park in Kneesworth on September 19th 2011.

The experienced staff member was employed by Universal Builders Supply and a week-long trial at Peterborough Crown Court heard that the man was part of a four-person team assembling a tri-mast in the rear yard of a premises in Cambridgeshire.

Two sections of the structure had been lowered down from a purpose-built jig, but when one of them did not sit on the ground correctly, Mr Sewell and a colleague tried to force it out of its rut by using a sledgehammer and a crowbar.

Judges at the court heard that after their attempts failed, the driver of the telehandler winching up the jig was told by bosses to push a mast section forward. However, as he did this two of the three-metre tall mast sections slammed down on top of the 57-year-old - killing him immediately.

After hearing about the fatal accident the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the project was not properly planned or supervised and there had been no separation of vehicles from staff members on foot.

Universal Builders Supply denied liability for Mr Sewell's death, but a jury decided its lack of care was one of the main factors in the incident. 

The company was fined a total of £125,000 and told to pay £40,000 in costs after it breached a number of guidelines.

HSE inspector Graham Tompkins commented: "The loss of Mr Sewell was devastating for his family and friends and is made even more incomprehensible by the fact that it was completely avoidable.

"This tragic death could have been prevented had simple safety measures been thought through and put in place. Universal Builders Supply failed to plan the work properly, to provide appropriate instruction and to ensure there was competent supervision."

By Chris Stevenson