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ERI site firm fined £35k after worker impaled on spike


A CONSTRUCTION company has been fined £35,000 after one of its workmen died when he was impaled on a spike while working at the old Royal Infirmary site.

Supervisor Willie Hume, 60, died in hospital after falling on to the metal spike in July last year.

Yesterday his employers RJ McLeod pleaded guilty at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to breaching health and safety regulations and admitted the area where the accident happened should have been properly fenced off.

The experienced construction worker had been employed by the company for more than 20 years and was described as a loyal, valued and popular employee.

Prosecutor Laura Thomson said Mr Hume fell on to the spike which was protruding from a retaining wall within an eight-foot excavation hole at the Lauriston Place site. As the steel bar pierced his neck, he tried to get a foothold on the ground but it kept breaking away. Excavator operator Alexander Wilson grabbed on to Mr Hume's belt trying to raise him up from the ground.

He then found a saw lying nearby and cut the bar - freeing Mr Hume, although a piece of the spike was still in his neck.

Medical staff from nearby Lauriston Hospital began first aid which continued until an ambulance took Mr Hume to the new Royal Infirmary. However he was pronounced dead soon after.

The company had ordered safety caps to be placed on top of any exposed reinforcement bars a year earlier, but these instructions were ignored.

Mr Hume's wife and four of his five children sat in silence as details of the accident were described to the court. Mr Hume, of East Kilbride, had been working on the site with his son, William Junior, for four months when the accident happened.

On the day of the accident, Mr Hume had been working with Mr Wilson on a section of foundation. While Mr Wilson was operating the excavator, he swung the machine's arm round to empty out earth he had collected, he saw Mr Hume standing in a safe position. When he swung the excavator arm back, Mr Hume had disappeared from view and, seconds later, he saw he had fallen on to one of the raised support bars and had been impaled through his neck.

Mrs Thomson said it had not been possible to determine what caused the fall, but described three possible explanations: "First, that he was struck by the excavator causing him to lose his balance, second, that he tried to move out of the way of the excavator and lost his footing and third, that he simply slipped or tripped."

She added: "Had robust fencing been in situ and/or had the bars been capped, the accident would not have cost him his life."

Defence agent Douglas Russell said: "The company has been shocked and saddened by this tragic accident and extends its sympathy to the family."

He went on to say it was deeply committed to ensuring the safety of its workers.

This was the first offence for the 50-year-old Glasgow-based construction company, which has 375 employees.

Passing sentence, Sheriff Gordon Liddle said: "This has been a time of tragic suffering for the family and nothing I can do today will make any difference to that.

"This was a local failure rather than a failure at a higher level and the company has to accept that responsibility."

In a statement issued today, RJ McLeod said: "Everyone was deeply shocked and saddened at the death of William Hume.

"Willie was a loyal and long standing member of the company and was liked and respected in equally high measures. Our thoughts and sympathies continue to be with Willie's family in these tragic circumstances."

Mr Hume's family declined to comment after the hearing.


Morley Enterprises

Page Last Updated: 4 March, 2010

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