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Written by
on 21 September 2012


Public Safety in the news

In recent weeks the news has been filled with some tragic incidents. One of the sad incidents involves the death of a child who was killed by a falling wall as she walked behind her mother.  Three year old Meg Burgess was crushed by a five foot concrete wall. When the wall was investigated it was found to have weak foundations and weak mortar holding it together. This case is currently in the courts as the Health and Safety Executive say that the builder of the wall had gambled with the health and safety of the public.

Accused of Manslaughter

George Collier, the director of a building company has been accused of manslaughter.  It is thought that he failed to make sure that safety steps were performed during the construction of the wall. Meg Burgess was pronounced dead within ten minutes of arriving in hospital. Her mother said that the wall had collapsed in a millisecond.

Upon investigation it was discovered that the wall was not built to the expected standard.  He is also accused of not following appropriate advice.  Mr Collier used an excavator in order to shift around 15 tons of soil and debris behind the wall on the day of the incident.  Because of this it is believed that the wall was put under too much strain and because of its poor construction it was unable to remain standing under the weight. The Health and Safety experts considered the mortar was too weak for the wall and the foundations were totally inadequate.  Mr Collier has denied manslaughter and the case continues.

Learning from Tragedies

Although this case hasn’t been concluded there are still many lessons to be learnt from the sad death of Meg Burgess. When constructing walls you must ensure that the foundations are suitable for the weight and height of the wall itself and to cope with any pressure that will be exerted onto it once it has been erected.  It is also necessary to ensure that the mortar is suitable and will be strong enough to keep the wall together. It may also be necessary to provide signs to alert the public to possible risks while work is being carried out and using barriers may also be required.

Health and safety techniques such as workplace risk assessments can help to establish what has to be done in order to prevent accidents such as these. It is then necessary to follow the methods and suggestions as laid out in the risk assessment to ensure that all is done to prevent an incident.

Reduce the Risks by Evaluating Your Health and Safety

If you would like to evaluate your methods of work contact your health and safety consultants. With numerous health and safety services available ranging from audits to training it is possible to do everything possible to help safe guard the public and your employees from potential harm.  If you would like to discuss any specific health and safety concerns or requirements you have within the construction industry please contact our team on 0800 1488 677.

About the author

David Cant is a Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME’s favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick. You can find him across social media on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.