Court hears allegations of “complete lack of planning” on refurb project

Progress in the trial of Cavendish Masonry Ltd for an alleged offence of corporate manslaughter has been reported by the Mail online. The company deny the charge but has admitted a charge under health and safety legislation.

The project was being undertaken near Moulsford, Oxfordshire in February 2010 and involved work on the Well Barn Estate, as part of a major renovation at a £20million home.

It is reported that the court has heard that David Evans, aged 23, was working on a country house redevelopment when he was crushed by a two-ton block of limestone because of a ‘complete lack of planning’.

The stonemason’s assistant suffered ‘catastrophic’ injuries to his chest and abdomen when huge rock fell from a supporting lintel after a crane driver was told to slacken the ropes holding it.

“Inevitable” block would topple

The prosecution described the rock as being like ‘an enormous free-standing bathroom tile’ but without grouting or anything else to hold it in place.

Mr Evans was pinned to a set of stairs for between five and 20 seconds. He was treated at the scene by colleagues and paramedics before being airlifted to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Oliver Glasgow, prosecuting for the crown, said:

“The decision had been taken not to use any fixings to hold the stone in place, therefore when the strops on the crane were slackened off, the only thing that held it there was its own weight. Since it was top-heavy and its width was not uniform and it was balanced on two concrete blocks, it was inevitable it would topple.”

He said tests were later carried out on the block and found that because of its irregular shape, it was a matter of millimetres which could decide whether it was stable or not.

“Specialist inspectors from HSE considered the absence of restraint as being very serious. They identified fixing the stones in place before the strops were let off was an essential part of the operation and absence was a significant error.

It would appear no real thought or planning had gone into the operation itself. Cavendish Masonry did almost nothing to ensure the lifting operation was done safely. The dangers it posed were obvious and they had been alerted by an email from the architect.”

The trial continues and Cavendish Masonry Ltd continue to deny the allegation.

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