Thursday 22 March 2018

Hotel operators apply for more time to lodge appeal against conviction and €18,000 fine after worker fell through rotten boards on 'death-trap' scaffolding tower

Harcourt Hotel
Harcourt Hotel

Tom Tuite

THE operators of a top Dublin hotel have applied for further time to lodge an appeal against a conviction and €18,000 fine after a worker fell through rotten boards on a “death-trap” scaffolding tower.

Olema Consultants, of 60 Harcourt St, Dublin 2, was also ordered to pay approximately €9,000 in legal costs and witness expenses.

Following a two-day hearing in March at Dublin District Court, the hotel firm run by Brian McGill was found guilty by Judge John O'Neill of offences under the Safety and Health and Welfare at Work Act.

However, they want to appeal but must apply to the court for permission because it was not lodged within 14 days of conviction. Defence solicitor Shay Fleming said the delay was a result of his client being of ill health.

The State will object to them now being granted permission to appeal the case, Judge O'Neill heard. Judge O'Neill asked for medical reports to be furnished and adjourned the application until July 11.

The prosecution came following a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation into incident on May 6 2014 at the Harcourt Hotel. The court heard a worker had been on a 15-metre scaffolding tower.

HSA inspector David O'Connell said the man had been standing on the third floor platform level when he went through a board and fell onto the second level. He then went through boards again and landed on the tower's first level, a total drop of six metres.

Mr O'Connell told the prosecution counsel that the man had been initially standing on a single board which was rotten and snapped in half.

Fundamental components were absent from the tower, the inspector said, adding: the scaffolding had no bracing; there was an inadequate number of ties attaching the tower to the building: a platform on the scaffolding was not in compliance with codes of practice; there were no guard rails and it had rotten boards. The bracing is a fundamental component to stop it from collapsing, swaying and buckling, Mr O'Connell had said.

The worker was in hospital for three days and suffered multiple injuries but is back at work, however, he may have ongoing back and neck pain, the district court trial had heard.

The hotel's managing director Brian McGill had told the court the hotel was being prepared for refurbishment work. A health and safety expert was due to come on site to advise and to train workers. However, he claimed that without his knowledge his foreman decided to put the scaffolding up two days before the health and safety consultant arrived. Information given about the distance the worker fell for the purpose of filling out an incident report form was also incorrect, the court heard. The report said the man fell 2.9 metres.

The defence argued that the company was not to blame for a decision made by their foreman, the project manager, who disobeyed orders and brought the scaffolding on site.

The prosecution had argued that the company was responsible for the “death-trap”. Counsel said their claim about the foreman was never mentioned to the HSA official who investigated the incident.

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