Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Thursday, 18 December 2008

200k fine in Senedd death case

Senedd building
John Walsh died when a cavity wall he was filling with concrete

A construction firm has been fined 200,000 over the death of a worker during the building of the Welsh assembly's debating chamber.

John Walsh, 53, from Bristol, was a foreman at the Cardiff Bay building site in March 2004 when a cavity wall he was filling with concrete collapsed.

Taylor Woodrow admitted health and safety breaches but disputed the terms.

Cardiff Crown Court heard the firm now accepted its breaches had contributed to Mr Walsh's death.

Judge Neil Bidder QC said the explanation for the late concession was that the company had recently changed ownership and that it was to the new owners' credit a third basis of plea was entered.

He said Mr Walsh lost his life "tragically and unnecessarily"

Mr Walsh's inquest in March 2007 heard he had been near the top of a 10ft ladder filling a cavity between two walls with concrete when one of the walls collapsed.

The family is angry at the death and what they regard as the disgraceful conduct of the defendants
Judge Neil Bidder QC

Mr Walsh landed face down. He was taken to the University Hospital of Wales, but died the following day, on 15 March, 2004.

He was employed by Taylor Woodrow's sub-contractor, Ferson.

Judge Bidder said Taylor Woodrow had failed to provide details of safe construction for the wall which contributed Ferson's method of building and the "ad-hoc" way the inner and outer walls were joined together.

He said said further to this, a supervisor from Taylor Woodrow had been on site over 10 days when construction was taking place and had failed to notice that it was dangerous.

'Substantial penalty'

He said the fact the supervisor lacked qualifications of experience to appreciate the risk was "a very substantial failing".

The judge added: "No-one seriously disputes it was an unsafe construction and Ferson must share blame for that construction."

He said both companies were aware of the danger of the wall "blowing" or being forced out by the pressure of liquid concrete being placed in the cavity.

He added the impact on Mr Walsh's family "can hardly be imagined".

He said: "Perhaps the greatest effect has been on his widow, observed by other members of the family to have considerably changed and become very withdrawn.

"The family is angry at the death and what they regard as the disgraceful conduct of the defendants."


Judge Bidder said a "substantial penalty" was necessary to "bring home the need for ever present vigilance" and to "deter other companies from relaxing the highest level of safety".

He also ordered Taylor Woodrow to pay 71,400 costs.

After the hearing, Mr Walsh's widow, Susan, said the family was pleased the prosecution had now reached a conclusion.

She said: "It is almost five years since my husband died and we are satisfied that the failures of the health and safety procedures at the Welsh assembly building construction site have been admitted.

"This has been a very difficult time for us all."

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