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Construction firm fined after employee falls down manhole

Robert Gerrard sustained serious injuries in the accident on an Aberdeen building site.

Court: Mr Gerrard suffers chronic pain since the accident (file pic).
Court: Mr Gerrard suffers chronic pain since the accident (file pic). PA

A company has been fined £17,500 after a long-serving employee suffered serious injuries when he fell down a manhole on a construction site.

Family owned subcontractors D & E Mackay had been carrying out groundwork for a new medical centre in Aberdeen when the industrial accident happened in 2014.

One of the company directors was told during a site visit to the Woodside Health Centre on May 23 that a manhole cover had been replaced with a 10mm cement board, typically used for soundproofing.

But no steps were taken to warn any of the employees on the site of the hazard, and hours later, labourer Robert Gerrard, 61, was directing a truck onto the site when his weight broke the thin cover.

Mr Gerrard suffered a fractured hip and cracked vertebrae in his back in the 4m fall - leaving him practically housebound and in chronic pain.

The firm, which had been Mr Gerrard's employer for 11 years, admitted failing to prevent the accident when the health and safety case was called at Aberdeen Sheriff Court on Friday.

The court heard that D & E's operations director Brian Mackay had visited the construction site near the city's Great Northern Road just hours before the horrific accident.

During his visit he was asked to source a replacement for the temporary manhole cover, which was partially obscured by topsoil, by the site's main developer Galliford Try Construction.

The court heard the original manhole cover had been used to replace another broken one on the site some time earlier.

Fiscal depute Richard Brown said that in addition to the hip and back injuries, Mr Gerrard had spent two weeks in hospital and a further five months in a back brace.

The fiscal added: "He attends physiotherapy every two weeks. Performing routine tasks such as walking, climbing stairs and driving causes him difficulty and as such he rarely leaves the house."

Mr Gerrard is currently awaiting an appointment with surgeons to find out if he will have to live with the pain for the rest of his life, the court was told.

Graeme Napier told Kintore-based contractors: "The failure to cover this manhole cover was a serious one.

"It exposed danger to anyone that was working on the site."

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