Construction firm fined €75,000 after man killed on site

A construction company has been fined €75,000 under the Health and Safety Act arising out of an accident at a building site where a man was killed after a steel bar fell onto him.

Mr Edmund Christopher Meridith (aged 23), a carpet fitter, was killed when he was struck by a steel L-shaped angle that fell like "a spear or javelin" from the sixth storey of an apartment block off Dublin’s Pearse Street. His partner was expecting their second child at the time.

Mr Damien Fulton of Ridgewood Close, Swords pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on behalf of Pierse Contracting Ltd to three breaches of section seven of the Health and Safety Act at Gallery Quay, Pearse Street on March 14, 2005.

Pierse Contracting Ltd, based at Birmayne House, Mulhuddart, admitted to failing to ensure that people not in their employment were not exposed to risk by failing to take appropriate procedures in relation to stacking materials at a height and the provision of edge protection at a height.

The company also pleaded guilty to failing to provide protection from falling materials by failing to provide covered passageways where it was necessary to do so and also that it failed to take into account a health and safety plan.

Judge Katherine Delahunt fined them €25,000 on each of the three counts. She expressed her condolences to Mr Meridith’s family and particularly his partner and child.

She said Pierse Contracting had a good safety record and had co-operated with the Health and Safety Authority but there was a "lapse in their procedures which was extreme".

Inspector Kevin Broderick of the HSA told Mr Remy Farrell BL, prosecuting, that initially there had been a "level of suspicion" surrounding the incident and gardai were concerned that Mr Meridith had either fallen from the building or had been deliberately struck with something.

He said that Pierse Contracting, who he described as one of the largest building contractors in Ireland, had finished all the apartments in the block bar those on the top floor.

He said there was a number of building materials on the roof that day including galvanised angles, timber decking, timber stairways, insulation and cylinders.

A man who was working in the building opposite the apartment block witnessed a construction worker knocking the galvanised angle off the roof as he was trying to dislodge a timber plank from a large pile.

He described the metal bar as falling onto a balcony below before it bounced off that and continued to fall like "a spear of javelin" onto the pavement where it struck Mr Mereidith in his upper body.

The witness to the incident later reported that the construction worker on the roof that day never noticed that the steel angle had fallen.

Insp Broderick said that Mr Meridith had been fitting carpets in one of the new apartments in the block that day. He was returning to the building after realising that he had left his mobile phone behind.

He was rushed to St James’s Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

Insp Broderick told Judge Delahunt that Pierse Contracting should have erected a protected walkway at ground level around the entire construction site, bringing people away from the building.

He said that Pierse Contracting had been very co-operative throughout the investigation. They had one previous "very minor" District conviction a number of years ago.

Insp Broderick said that Pierse Contracting had recorded turnover of €475m, profits of €8.9m and assets of €55m for year ending 2006 to 2007.

Mr David Nolan SC, defending, told Judge Delahunt that while his client acknowledges their responsibility in that they failed to develop their health and safety policies as work on the site progressed, he asked the court to consider that Pierse Contracting were not charged with causing the death of Mr Meridith.

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