Two members of the 777 group of companies have been ordered to pay fines and prosecution costs totalling £382,857 after falling concrete joists killed a worker during a demolition project in south London in 2007. Dominic Elliss, a principal inspector with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said he hoped that the case would “spark renewed focus by all in the construction industry on the importance of effective planning, constant review and robust supervision throughout demolition works”.
The incident took place at the Elephant and Castle, where an office block was being demolished in preparation for what would eventually become the landmark 43-storey Strata SE1, which was one of the first mixed-use buildings to incorporate wind turbines into its structure. The principal contractor for the demolition project was 777 Demolition and Haulage Co Ltd; a second group company, 777 Environmental Ltd, undertook the actual demolition of the building. The 777 group specialises in demolition, recycling and asbestos removal.
On 2 August 2007, John Walker, who was an electrician, was working for 777 Environmental Ltd near to two remote controlled demolition machines. As the machines broke through a structural beam, several concrete joists were dislodged, striking Mr Walker.
The HSE’s investigation found that both 777 companies failed properly to plan, manage and monitor the demolition of the structure. They had neither prepared nor implemented an effective and safe system of work for the demolition, which “ultimately” allowed for the uncontrolled collapse. 777 Environmental Ltd failed to investigate properly the nature of the structure as the demolition proceeded, which led to the collapse, while its failure to implement “robust” exclusion zones “allowed a wholly foreseeable risk to have fatal consequences”.
Both companies were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 2 November 2015. The judge fined 777 Demolition and Haulage Co Ltd £125,000 after a jury convicted it of exposing persons other than its employees to risks to their safety. 777 Environmental Ltd, which had previously pleaded guilty to failing to ensure its employees’ safety, was fined £90,000. The companies were also ordered to pay the HSE’s prosecution costs of £167,857.