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Boss Imprisoned in Worker’s Fatal Fall

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

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The owner of a UK demolition company has been sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in an employee’s death on a worksite.

Allan Turnbull, 61, who headed A&H Site Line Boring and Machining, had been found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after a four-week trial. In addition, he had pleaded earlier to violating general-duty provisions of the UK’s Health and Safety at Work Act.

In addition, a director of the general contractor that hired A&H was fined in the case for putting the victim at risk.

‘Lacked Competence’

Prosecutors said Turnbull “lacked the necessary competence to do the work” when his company was contracted to dismantle structural steelwork of the roof at the burning hall of the Swan Hunter Shipyard in Newcastle, England.

Swan Hunter

Shipbuilding at the Swan Hunter Shipyard in Wallsend ceased in 2006.

Founded in 1880, the famous shipbuilding company—whose ships included the RMS Carpathia, which rescued the survivors from the RMS Titanic—ceased shipbuilding operations in 2006, and many of the Wallsend yard's structures and equipment were being dismantled.

On Dec. 2, 2008, Turnbull’s crew included Ken Joyce, 53, of Lanchester, England, who was working from a cherry picker. Two colleagues working from another cherry picker and a crane were using the crane to lower the steel beams to the ground.

While removing a beam brace connecting two plate girders, one of the girders struck the basket of Joyce’s cherry picker and knocked it over, hurling him to the ground, where he struck his head. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

Investigations by the police and the Health and Safety Executive (the UK’s occupational safety and health agency) found that Turnbull had failed to adequately plan the work after identifying a lack of suitable and sufficient lifting plans to ensure a safe system of work was in place for the project.

GC Cited, Fined

A&H was a subcontractor on the project for North Eastern Maritime Offshore Cluster Ltd. (NEMOC).

At trial, the jury was told that NEMOC and director Christopher William Taylor, 51, of Newcastle, had failed to ensure the safety of employees and subcontracted workers by neglecting to check that Turnbull had the necessary competence to carry out the work, HSE said in a release.

Taylor was found guilty of violating two general-duty provisions of the Health and Safety Act. He was fined a total of £30,000 ($46,031 USD)—£15,000 for each offense.

Swan Hunter
Kafuffle / Wikimedia Commons

The famous cranes of the Swan Hunter Shipyard were dismantled several months after this March 2007 photo.

NEMOC, which had operated out of the shipyard, also was found guilty of two general-duty breaches. The company, which is now in bankruptcy, was fined £1 ($1.53 USD) for each offense, according to the HSE.

Earlier Prosecution

Turnbull was also prosecuted in November 2005 after an employee suffered serious leg injuries while dismantling a brick manufacturing plant.

"Ken’s employer failed to improve his work following a similar incident in 2005, yet he continued to perform dismantling work,” said Chief Inspector Mark Anastasi, of the Northumbria Police.

"Swan Hunter shipyard formed a major part of the local community and sadly, at the end of an era, during the dismantling process Ken lost his life as a result of the mismanagement of the work. The failures from both the individuals and the company showed a total disregard for safe working practices.”

‘Collective Failures’

HSE Inspector Emma Scott said, "This was a tragedy that could easily have been prevented had a safe system of work been in place.

"Instead, Ken Joyce lost his life as a result of collective failures, which included not preparing in advance a detailed plan of how the work should be carried out and no lifting plans to ensure the safe removal of the beams.

"I hope other companies can learn from this and ensure they take the necessary action to deal with the high risk involved with work of this nature."

Falls and the Law

The UK’s Work at Height Regulations, first enacted in 2005,  place duties on employers, the self-employed, and any person that controls the work of others (for example, facilities managers or building owners who may contract others to work at height).

UK Work at Heights Regs

Under the UK's 2005 Work at Height Regulations, managers, owners and other parties who control the work of others at heights are responsible for their safety.

Those parties are required to ensure that:

  • All work at height is properly planned and organized;
  • Those involved in work at height are competent;
  • The risks from work at height are assessed and appropriate work equipment is selected and used;
  • The risks from fragile surfaces are properly controlled; and
  • Equipment for work at height is properly inspected and maintained.

To be found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter, the defendant has to owe a duty of care to the deceased and to be in breach of this duty. In addition, the breach has to have caused the death of the deceased, and the defendant’s negligence must show such a disregard for the life and safety of others as to amount to a crime and deserve punishment.

Family Responds

In a statement, Joyce’s family said it was “striving to honor Kenneth’s memory and are still coming to terms with the void his absence has left in our lives over the past four years.”

It added: "Above all else, we have hoped for justice for him and for the intensity of the sadness and grief created by his untimely passing, to ease and lessen with the aid of this justice, along with the healing passage of time."


Tagged categories: Cranes; Enforcement; Fatalities; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; Shipyards

Comment from Billy Russell, (6/4/2013, 5:48 AM)

Spot on for the UK, At least they have a back bone, protecting their workers holding owners and supervisors criminally liable. We will impose a multi million dollar fine for the initial headline only to reduce that by 95% a few weeks later when the heat has died down. If they loose their Bonding they will just write a check for another QP certification in their nephews name fresh coat of paint on the same equipment and continue as if nothing happen 3 states away, got to love our system when the certifying organization wont even keep detailed records of the worst offenders, so owners can have accurate information about their to good to be true low Bidders. Only in America do they fall, Die get ignored start another company retire a multimillionaire on an exotic Beach in Greece.

Comment from scott gordon, (6/4/2013, 11:37 AM)

All I have to say is "Wow".

Comment from WAN MOHAMAD NOR WAN ABDUL RAHMAN, (6/5/2013, 3:49 AM)


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