Firms fined over Christopher Heaton scaffolding death

Christopher Heaton
Image caption Christopher Heaton fell 22m to his death on a construction site in Manchester city centre

Two construction companies have been fined more than £300,000 after an employee fell to his death when he became entangled in a chain.

Christopher Heaton, 25, from St Helens, was working on flats in Manchester when he was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m (72ft).

Shawton Engineering and Amec Group were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court over breaches in safety rules.

Mr Heaton's father, Len, said his son's death in 2004 devastated his family.

Falling steel

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted steel-erection company, Shawton Engineering, and the site's principal contractor, Amec Group, following an investigation into Mr Heaton's death.

It found Mr Heaton had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform to adjust a steel beam three stories above him, while working on the city centre apartments, when one of the supporting brackets gave way.

He was struck by a falling steel block, became entangled in the operating chain and was dragged over the edge of the scaffolding.

Another worker, who does not want to be named, was also injured.

The investigation concluded the wrong studs had been used to secure the chain and the work had not been properly planned or monitored.

'Happy go lucky'

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Heaton said: "The loss of our son has completely devastated our lives.

"Chris was a good lad, with a happy go lucky outlook. He loved his job and was looking forward to a career in engineering.

"I used to worry about him all the time, especially when he was out at night. Ironically, I didn't worry too much when he was at work. I thought he was safe.

"Chris would still be alive today if simple health and safety rules were adhered to and hopefully lessons have been learned to stop this type of incident happening again."

Neil Jamieson, HSE Principal Inspector for Construction, described the incident as "horrifying" and said: "If either Chris's employer, Shawton Engineering, or the principal contractor on the site, Amec, had acted differently then his life could have been saved."

Shawton Engineering Ltd, of Sankey Valley Industrial Estate, Newton le Willows, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work.

The company received a nominal fine of £1 because it had gone into administration.

Amec Group Ltd, of Birchwood Boulevard, Birchwood, Warrington, was found guilty of breaching part of the same act, by failing to ensure the safety of workers, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

It was handed a fine of £300,000 plus costs of £333,866.

The latest figures show that 50 construction workers were killed while at work in Great Britain in 2010-11 and there were nearly 3,000 major injuries.

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