A site manager has been found guilty of manslaughter after a 43-year-old woman was crushed to death when window frames weighing over half a tonne fell on her as she walked past a construction site in central London.
Lawyer Amanda Telfer (pictured below) was walking along the pavement in Hanover Square in Mayfair late one morning in August 2012 when the three large window frames – which had been left leaning against the building unsecured – toppled over, the Old Bailey heard during a recent six-week trial. The frames – which together weighed 665kg – had been delivered to the site the previous day as scheduled but had been left on the pavement overnight as other delays during the project meant they couldn’t be fitted immediately. However, the unglazed frames – one around 3.2m square and two approximately 3.3m x 1.8m – were not secured and no barrier was placed around them, the court heard.
As Amanda walked past, it is thought a door in the building blew open in the wind, striking the frames. Although a worker inside attempted to grab them, they toppled, crushing Amanda underneath. She died at the scene shortly afterwards.
Kelvin Adsett, a 64-year-old project manager for IS Europe Limited, was found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence and offences under Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 of failing to take reasonable care for the health and safety of others.
Damian Lakin-Hall, a 50-year-old from Cobham in Surrey, was acquitted of Ms Telfer’s manslaughter but found guilty of breaching section 7(a) of the HSWA 1974.
A company - IS Europe Ltd, of Slough, Berkshire - was found guilty of breaching sections 2 and 3 of the HSWA 1974 by failing to ensure the health and safety of employees and others.
The court heard that Lakin-Hall told police officers at the scene the frames had been secured to the wall with a ratchet strap, though evidence showed this had never been the case. The joint investigation by the Metropolitan Police and HSE also found that none of the individual defendants had carried out any checks on the stacked frames when they arrived on site on the morning of the incident.
Adsett and Lakin-Hall are due to be appear for sentencing at the Old Bailey on 5 May.
Steven Rogers, Westgreen Construction Limited of London and door and window manufacturer Drawn Metal Ltd of Leeds, the latter of which is now in administration, were all cleared of health and safety charges, according to the London Evening Standard newspaper.
Commenting after the trial, Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Chalmers of the Metropolitan Police, said Ms Telfer’s death was “completely avoidable”.
He added: “The individuals and company who were convicted in this tragic case had a laissez-faire attitude to health and safety and did not take their obligations seriously.
“Each had a responsibility for the safety of the construction site but failed to deal with a basic task that very obviously then presented a serious hazard.
“Prosecutions such as this are so important in enforcing adherence to health and safety laws. This tragic case proves just why employers and employees should take their obligations to safeguard workers and the public seriously.”
In a statement, Amanda’s parents, Barry and Ann Telfer, said their daughter was “a bright lovely professional woman living her life to the full and making plans for the future”.
They added: “The frames had been left standing, almost vertically, at the side of a public pavement, unsecured to anything, unattended and with no safety barriers around them.
“If construction companies and the people who work for them are not held to account for such high levels of negligence and incompetence then none of us is safe walking the streets next to construction sites.
“The health and safety training being given is totally inadequate, if risk of death to passers-by is ignored.”
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