The construction firm which was doing extension works for a neighbouring pizza restaurant was before Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday.
Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin imposed a €25,000 fine on McCarthy Greenbuild Construction Ltd, which entered a plea of guilty to the charge of exposing a member of the public to risk contrary to health and safety legislation.
The charge stated that, on September 15, 2014, at the rear of Padraigín’s Pizza on St Patrick’s Quay, Bandon, Co Cork, McCarthy Greenbuild Construction Ltd failed to manage and conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, that in the course of work activities, namely the building of a structure at the rear of this premises, an individual, namely William O’Driscoll, was not exposed to risks to his safety, health, or welfare, and that, as a consequence of this failure, he suffered personal injury and died.
The late Mr O’Driscoll’s widow, Nell O’Driscoll, said in her victim impact statement: “The initial shock and the continuing sense of loss is with me since and still persists to this day. Billy loved his garden and treasured his time in our garden and his workshop. Every time I look out or venture into the garden there is a constant, never-ending reminder of this terrible event which caused such tragedy.
“We were married for 50 years and we were both enjoying the peace and tranquillity of our retirement and the companionship which we all take for granted until it is wrenched from us.”
Judge Ó Donnabháin said that one does not have to be an engineer or a builder to appreciate how potentially lethal the piece of work that was being undertaken.
“It is 40 years since I had a shovel in my hand, he said. “Even to me, it was manifestly dangerous.”
Health and safety inspector Frances Murphy gave evidence of the background to the accident.
Ms Murphy said construction work was being undertaken to extend storage areas at the back of the pizza restaurant. She said that in-fill material was being loaded against the wall on the restaurant side and the wall could not withstand the load. Two lorry-loads of material had been piled against and a third load was being unloaded when the wall collapsed.
Ms Murphy reported that it was a difficult site to work on as the area was tight and very sloped.
Judge Ó Donnabháin said the wall was in no way sufficient for the load going against it, taking account of the slopes.
“You are tossing in-fill into an ordinary brick wall,” he said. “It cannot withstand it. This was never going to work.”
Donal McCarthy, defence barrister, said the wall was not on to a public roadway.
Ms Murphy said: “It was a boundary wall with this gentleman’s garden.”
Mr McCarthy said the job was probably beyond the means of a small company, which only employed one person — a small company doing a small job in an Irish country town.
“He is not trying to excuse himself,” said Mr McCarthy. “He is the one who is most upset. He accepts in hindsight he should have done more.
“He is not trying to explain or excuse what happened. He is horrified by what happened.”