Crane collapse firm prosecuted for deaths

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A national crane hire company has been prosecuted for the deaths of two men following an incident on a London housing development…

Falcon Crane Hire Ltd has been fined £750,000 following the collapse of a tower crane in 2006. The incident, which occurred at a housing development in London, led to the deaths of two men.

The case, brought before Southwark Crown Court, revealed how crane operator Jonathan Cloke, 37, died alongside Michael Alexa, 23, a member of the public.

According to the investigation, 24 bolts failed due to metal fatigue. The slew ring bolts connected the mast to the slew turret which allows the jib to rotate through 360 degrees. The failing of the bolts caused the slew turret and jib to separate from the mast, which then fell to the ground.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the company failed to adequately investigate an incident nine weeks earlier of a similar kind. This saw bolts fail on the same crane. These were replace, but the company process to investigate the underlying cause of component failings was inadequate. The HSE said the failings of the bolts was an “exceptional and significant occurrence”, which should have been recognised by the firm.

For breaching Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act the firm was fined £750,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000.

Mike Wilcock, HSE Head of Operations, said: “Jonathan and Michael’s deaths were tragic, needless and entirely avoidable. These two men need not have died had Falcon Crane Hire taken the right, decisive action when the bolts failed the first time. The company fell far short of its health and safety obligation.”

Oliver Campbell, defending, said: “The company’s directors will always have to live with the knowledge that they should and could have done better with this accident. The company since scrapped all the cranes in that model and changed all its inspection procedures.

“The company sent their most experienced engineer to check the crane and there was nothing that constituted a fundamental breach that required the crane to be put out of service.”

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