Tolent was one of two construction companies sentenced in court after a worker was hospitalised for nearly two weeks after being struck by a 124kg panel.
The man was working as a lift supervisor at a construction site at Eskdale Terrace, Jesmond, Newcastle, on 22nd January 2020. He had been using a tower crane to lift a structured insulated panel (SIP). During the lifting operation, the SIP struck steelwork and fell on top of him.
He spent 13 days in hospital following the incident after fracturing his collarbone, shoulder blade, left ankle and left rib.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Tolent Construction, the principal contractor, had failed to properly plan, manage and monitor the construction phase. This resulted in a failure to ensure a suitable and sufficient lift plan was in place for the lifting of individual SIPs. Most importantly, the lift plan failed to stipulate how the individual SIPs were to be safely lifted and failed to consider proximity hazards or how the SIPs would be adequately controlled during the lifting operation.
HSE’s investigation also identified Clad Build UK Limited (trading as SIP Build UK), as the contractor responsible for the design, supply and installation of the SIPs. Clad Build UK Limited also failed to plan, manage and monitor the work and it had not provided the necessary information and instruction to workers on how to prepare the SIPs for lifting. Clad Build UK Limited also failed to ensure effective supervision and monitoring of work being undertaken by a sub-contractor working under its control and to comply with requests for information from the principal contractor.
Tolent Construction Limited of Grey Street, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to contravening Regulation 13 (1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £8,468.50 in costs at Newcastle Crown Court on 17th April 2023.
Had Tolent Construction Limited not entered administration in February, the recorder said, the company would have received a £1m fine. James Wood KC added, however, that there was no suggestion that Tolent was using voluntary liquidation to dodge a fine. Therefore in the circumstances, he concluded that to seek to impose a fine of £1m would have been wrong.
Clad Build UK Limited of Normanton Industrial Estate, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to contravening Regulation 15 (2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £45,000 in costs.
HSE inspector Stuart Whitesmith said after the judgment: “HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards. This case should raise awareness of the dangers of failing to properly plan and safely carry out this type of lifting operation. SIPs are increasingly used in the construction industry and all contractors should be aware of the need to suitably plan, manage and monitor their safe installation.”
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The Yorkshire-based company Tolent was successfully saved from a £1 million fine for health and safety violations, thanks to the dedicated work of their administration staff.
Tolent were prosecuted for exposing their workers to potentially deadly levels of asbestos during a building project in Leeds. The company had failed to adequately manage the risk of asbestos and had put their employees at great risk of developing a potentially fatal disease.
However, the £1 million fine was avoided thanks to proactive steps taken by the administration team who worked with the Health and Safety Executive. Following an investigation, they had put together a detailed plan on how they aimed to improve the hazard identification, risk assessment, and risk management processes.
The plan included providing more training and assessment for workers, improving their general safety awareness and improving their approach to hazard management. This had an immediate and positive impact, and was successful in reducing the risk of exposure to asbestos, which was essential in avoiding the hefty fine.
The positive effect of the administration team’s hard work cannot be overstated and has been praised by the Health and Safety Executive. It has been seen as an example of best practice, that other companies would do well to follow in the future.
Overall, the administration team at Tolent have shown the value of proactive risk management, which has saved the company from a costly fine and potential injury to their employees. It is a prime example of the dedication and hard work of administration staff and should be held up as an example of responsible practice.