Contractor fined £600k after child dies on site

A civils firm has been fined £600,000 for safety breaches after the death of a child on a site.

Seven-year-old Conley Thompson went missing from home on 26 July 2015. His body was discovered by construction workers the following morning on the site at Bank End Road, Worsbrough, in South Yorkshire.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Conley had become trapped in a drainage pipe and suffocated before workers arrived at the site to restart work, the body said in a statement.

Leeds-based Howard Civil Engineering Ltd was fined £600,000, and ordered to pay £42,952.88 in costs at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday.

The firm had earlier pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(4)(b) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The contractor was working on a new-build housing scheme located next to an existing housing estate, and adjacent to busy pedestrian footpaths and roads.

The HSE found there was insufficient fencing in place to keep unauthorised people from entering the site. It said this was the result of poor planning, management, and monitoring of the site and its boundary.

The drainage pipe had been fixed into the ground in preparation for the installation of fencing posts.

HSE inspector Paul Yeadon said: “Conley should never have been able to be on that site. He should have been kept out.”

He added that there was an “ongoing problem” of children accessing sites and treating them “like a playground”. This, he said, “must be addressed at all types of sites, no matter what their complexity or size”.

“The industry must do all it can to ensure children can’t access construction sites and be exposed to the inherent risks they present to prevent further tragedies like this from occurring,” he added.

Howard Civil Engineering founder and managing director Michael Howard said: “Conley’s death was a tragic accident, and our thoughts and condolences remain with his family, who have suffered an unimaginable loss.

“We hope that the conclusion of this process can at least go some way in providing everyone affected by this tragedy with some resolution.

“In its evidence, the HSE highlighted the good safety record of [the firm] and the fact that [it] has not been subject to any previous convictions. However, we fully recognise that in this instance the perimeter fencing around our site had become damaged and inadequate over time.”

Howard added that the contractor had “engaged fully” with the HSE throughout its inquiry and put in place “several measures” to ensure the perimeter integrity of all of our sites since 2015.

In August 2021, Kier launched an investigation after a video surfaced of a child being put at risk on a construction site in Watford.

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