DJ Laing fined £32,000 after employee had legs crushed
Angus civil engineering firm DJ Laing (Contracts) Ltd has been fined £32,000 over an accident that left a 17-year-old employee permanently disfigured and facing arthritis in his legs, The Courier has reported.
Connor Watson was struck by a section of concrete retaining wall during work done by DJ Laing as part of the Arbroath Flood Prevention Scheme in September 2013.
The company appeared at Forfar Sheriff Court and admitted failing to take reasonable steps to prevent Mr Watson’s injury on September 26 that year.
DJ Laing appeared under an indictment brought by the Health and Safety Executive, following the accident at Denside culvert, Letham Grange.
The firm had been awarded an Angus Council contract to work along the Denside burn, which feeds into the Brothock Water, for a fee of £15,977.
It was to replace a pipe at a railway arch belonging to the former Arbroath to Forfar Railway.
A nearby garden had reported flooding and the local authority had decided to carry out work to prevent further occurrences.
The court heard Mr Watson’s father Gavin was the contracts manager for the site and had expressed “concerns” over whether the infill was secure before the accident.
He had asked the council about details of work done at the arch in 2003 but they were unable to provide a full brief.
The decision was taken to remove a “letterbox” of blocks toward the bottom of the structure, to allow gravel to flow out due to pressure.
Mr Watson had been removing blocks with a handheld electric drill and had removed two blocks before a colleague came to assist with a hammer.
On removing a fifth block, the wall gave way and its 0.46 tonne weight fell on Mr Watson’s legs.
Specialist fiscal depute Gavin Callaghan said: “Mr Watson was crushed and trapped by a section of concrete wall in the work, as directed by his employer, and suffered serious injuries as a consequence…
“He had played a large amount of football but is unable to do so.
“He is unable to run and he has been told he will not be able to play football again…he will have arthritis by 30.”
Solicitor for DJ Laing, Mark Donaldson, said the company was “deeply regretful” for the accident.
“The company fully accept that, not having received the information (about the wall) they should have refused the job,” he added.
Mr Donaldson said a combination of “experience and pragmatism” had led employees to undertake work, which was described as a “dangerous assumption” by Sheriff Pino Di Emidio.
Mr Watson returned to work in May 2014 and is currently in receipt of benefits, but has been offered a job on his return.