Cavendish Masonry Limited was found guilty by a jury on 22 May after David Evans, a 23-year-old stone mason’s mate, was killed as he helped erect a large wall at the Well Barn Estate in Moulsford, Wallingford, on 9 February 2010.
The block was lifted onto a concrete lintel using a crane, but it toppled over once the lifting slings had been removed, crushing Mr Evans beneath it. He was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford by air ambulance and was pronounced dead later the same day.
Oxford Crown Court heard how the firm failed to properly plan and manage the installation of the limestone. After the hearing, HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove said: “David Evans’ tragic death was completely avoidable had Cavendish Masonry properly planned and managed the installation of the heavy limestone.
“The lift itself was relatively straightforward, and there is no blame on the part of the crane operator who put the stone in place. The stone toppled because its shape was such that it was potentially unstable when free standing, yet nothing was used to fix it in place. It needed to be sufficiently restrained before the lifting slings attaching it to the crane were removed.
“The drawings for the work were wholly insufficient, and the overall execution of the project fell significantly below the standard required and expected of a competent masonry company.”
The conviction is the seventh under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, and only the third following trial.
Cavendish Masonry was charged with one offence under section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and one under the corporate manslaughter act. It pleaded guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second.
Unlike the majority of corporate manslaughter cases heard to date, no charges were brought against individuals.
Detective Constable David Edwards said: “I am very pleased with the outcome today. Although nothing will ever bring David back or change what happened, this conviction will provide the family with some sense of justice, and help to ensure nothing like this happens again.
“The investigation was jointly undertaken by Thames Valley Police and the Health and Safety Executive, with the majority of vital evidence being provided by experts from the Health and Safety Executive who have undertaken complex testing. I am pleased that the joint investigation has brought about this conviction.”
A spokesperson for the Evans family said: “On Tuesday 9th February 2010, David, our son, our brother, was cruelly taken from us. Since that day, over four years ago, there has been a void in our lives. We miss his smile, his infectious laugh and his profoundly honest nature. Not a single day passes without us thinking of him and wondering what his life and our lives would have been like were he here today.
“While we know that this trial will not bring David back to us, we now know how and why he was taken from us, how and why his promising life was cut so tragically short and how and why he will never be able to fulfil the potential that so many have attested to him having.
“We hope that this trial and the conclusions that are reached serve as an example to others in the industry. We hope that it is understood that the Health and Safety legislation is there to provide a safe working environment for all employees. We hope that it is understood that following such legislation and its guidelines provides a working environment where incidents such as the one that claimed the life of David are easily avoided.
“Most of all, we hope that these lessons are learned and communicated throughout the stonemasonry and construction industry. We do not want another family to go through the devastation and uncertainty that we have experienced over the last four years and the pain of loss which will always be with us. We do not want another family to lose someone as special as David John Evans.
Cavendish Masonry is to be sentenced on 3 July.