Woman traumatised after steel grids penetrate car roof

A building company has been fined €50,000 after a woman’s car was crushed by a load of steel mesh grids at a construction site just minutes after she had dropped a number of children at a nearby school.

A building company has been fined €50,000 after a woman’s car was crushed by a load of steel mesh grids at a construction site just minutes after she had dropped a number of children at a nearby school.

The woman has not driven a car since and was out of work for more than a year because of panic attacks as a result of the being trapped inside her Volkswagen Golf after the steel penetrated its roof.

She received cuts and bruises, suffered severe shock and was badly traumatised by the incident.

Mr Kevin Hogan, senior engineer and project manager with Coalport Building Company, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on behalf of the company to failing to protect the welfare and safety of employees on March 24, 2005 during construction of an apartment block at Donaghmede.

He also pleaded guilty on behalf of the company, with a registered office at Holles Street, Dublin 2, to failing to have a safety statement based on an assessment of potential hazards at the Donaghmede site.

James Murphy (aged 56), of Clongriffin, Enfield, County Meath, the Coalport site foreman, was fined €5,000 for failing to take reasonable precautions when unloading a truck at the location on the same date.

He pleaded guilty to failing to take reasonable care of his own safety and the safety of others who might be effected by his acts or omissions.

Murphy told Judge Katherine Delahunt he acknowledged responsibility for his role in the incident and wished to apologise to the woman. He said he suffers flashbacks of the incident and had since undertaken a safety course at University College Dublin.

Inspector Kevin Broderick, of the Health and Safety Authority, told prosecuting counsel, Mr Remy Farrell BL, that a lorry delivering steel mesh to the building site parked on the side of the road rather then entering the site because there was a recurring problem with trucks becoming bogged down.

Inspt Broderick said Murphy undertook responsibility for unloading the steel mesh grids from the truck, using a teleporter belonging to another contractor.

Murphy had undergone unofficial training using the teleporter, but was not certified to use it and the other contractor had not authorised the use of its machinery.

Inspt Broderick said Murphy began to unload the steel mesh and brought the first package of 20 sheets safely into the site. While he was unloading the second package, a third package of iron grids fell from the lorry onto passing traffic and penetrated the roof of the woman’s Volkswagen Golf.

Inspt Broderick said there should have been an exclusion zone managed by "a banksman" around the lorry during unloading which should taken place on a hard standing area within the site boundaries under the supervision of a qualified teleporter operator and with a traffic management system in place.

Inspt Broderick said a safety statement produced by the company had identified unloading on the side of the road as a problem, but this had not been acted upon.

Inspt Broderick told Mr Farrell that Coalport Building Company and Mr Murphy had no previous convictions for breaches of health and safety legislation.

Mr Stephen Byrne BL, defending Murphy, said his client had made a very serious error in judgement, but asked the court to take into account his remorse, clean safety record and early guilty plea.

Mr James Connelly SC (with Ms Caroline Cummings BL), for Coalport, said the company wished to apologise to the woman who had been involved in the incident. An insurance claim had been raised and settled against the company.

Mr Connelly said the company accepted responsibility and confirmed that the loading was unsafe.

Coalport had fully co-operated with the investigation and safety had been stepped up at the site following a temporary closure.

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