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Steelwork design company fined £100,000

Conder Structures of Staffordshire was yesterday fined £100,000 following the death of a 16-year-old ground worker in Leicestershire during the erection of a steel building structure in Lutterworth three years ago.

The accident occurred on 28 November, 2000, when Christopher Kesterton died after being struck by a freestanding structural steel column which fell during the erection of a steel-framed building. Mr Kesterton left school just weeks before the incident.

Kesterton was employed by a firm of ground workers and was killed when struck by a 17-metre tall steel column weighing almost 2 tonnes. The steel framed building was designed by Conder Structures and was erected by subcontractors at the Project Arrow construction site at Magna Park, Lutterworth.

The column was one of two that were blown over in the wind after having been lifted into place and bolted to their concrete bases, but otherwise freestanding. It appears that the subcontractors had been unable to fit any stabilizing wedges between the column and the concrete foundation, leaving it at risk. The erection method had been designed for winds of up to 25 miles per hour, while on that day they were closer to 30 miles per hour.

Kesterton was using a pneumatic breaker under supervision whilst the columns were being erected nearby. The crane driver to the steel erection team saw one of the two freestanding columns swaying in the wind and shouted a warning.

The swaying column fell, striking the adjacent column. Both columns then fell to the ground striking both workers. Kesterton was killed instantly while his supervisor received a glancing blow to the hip.

The HSE prosecuted Conder Structures under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to ensure that persons not in their employment, including Christopher Kesterton and his supervisor, were not exposed to risks to their safety, and under Regulation 13 (2) (b) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 1994 for failing to ensure that the design for a steel structure included adequate information about aspects of the project, material or structure which might affect the health and safety of any person carrying out construction work.

The fine was made up of £60,000 for not adequately supervising the project and subcontractors during erection, and a further £40,000 for not including sufficient health and safety information on the design and procedure for the structures erection contrary to CDM regulations.

The company will also pay £59, 374 in costs. This is the second time that Conder have been prosecuted.

Judge Christopher Metcalf said: "I find it extraordinary that there are no clear guidelines for the industry for levels of wind tolerance, nor are there clear protocols nor guidance for precautions to be taken when these structures are free-standing."


This case highlights a number of points for crane hire companies, crane drivers, crane users, contractors and prefabricated structure designers.

1.The importance of making sure that the lifting area, or the area where the crane or load might fall in the case of a tip over, is kept free of other workers or members of the public should never be ignored.

2. Any design or risk assessment has to consider the potential outcomes that might occur should a partial retention method fail, as either the bolts or part of the concrete foundation did in this case.

3. That wind speeds in such applications do need to be monitored and related back to the erection guidelines and procedures.

Prosecutions such as this carry not only a financial penalty with no limit on the level of fines that might be imposed, but can in some circumstances also involve a criminal offence and therefore subjection to further penalties.