Build­ing com­pany in cour­tover­school­site

The Kerryman (North Kerry) - - NEWS - BY ANNE LUCEY

A CON­STRUC­TION com­pany has pleaded guilty to fail­ing to prop­erly fence off a site dur­ing the build­ing of an ex­ten­sion at a sec­ondary school.

Nu­mer­ous chil­dren were in the vicin­ity of the site in the grounds of Kil­lar­ney Com­mu­nity Col­lege, when a Health and Safety Author­ity in­spec­tor paid “a rou­tine visit” at around 11am on the morn­ing off Fe­bru­ary 25, 2016, Kil­lar­ney Dis­trict Court heard.

The pros­e­cu­tion against Evans and Kel­li­her Con­struc­tion Ltd, of Chest­nut Grove Apart­ments, Sprout Lane, Mill­town, was brought at the suit of the DPP. There were two sum­monses un­der Safety, Health and Wel­fare at Work (Con­struc­tion) reg­u­la­tions and leg­is­la­tion, to do with fenc­ing to pro­tect peo­ple against risks.

No one was in­jured, “but with­out a doubt” there was po­ten­tial for in­jury, given that school classes were on-going, HSA in­spec­tor Michael Flynn told Tom Rice, prose­cut­ing bar­ris­ter for the State.

The school had re­mained open while con­struc­tion was tak­ing place. The main gate into the site from inside was “un­locked and unat­tended” and pupils could gain ac­cess, Mr Flynn said, hand­ing pho­to­graphs into court.

A sec­tion of the fenc­ing had been moved such that an emer­gency door was blocked – and peo­ple would have been di­rected into the mid­dle of the haz­ardous build­ing site.

An­other sec­tion of the fenc­ing was not se­cured.

Scaf­fold­ing and rub­ble was an al­lure­ment to chil­dren, Mr Flynn agreed with Mr Rice.

“A con­struc­tion site is dan­ger­ous. It is no place for or­di­nary peo­ple to wan­der and def­i­nitely no place to al­low ac­cess to chil­dren,” the in­spec­tor said.

The reg­u­la­tions for con­struc­tion placed “a clear duty on con­trac­tors” to take ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures for en­ter­ing a site and a pro­ject su­per­vi­sor should co-or­di­nate all other con­trac­tors to make sure there was no unau­tho­rised en­trance, Mr Flynn added.

Eoin Bros­nan , solic­i­tor , said his client was a com­mer­cial com­pany in­volved in school crèches and HSE work.

It was medium sized with net as­sets of over €842,000, the solic­i­tor be­gan, but Judge James O’Con­nor said there was no need to go into that as­pect.

The com­pany had no pre­vi­ous con­vic­tion and it reme­died the sit­u­a­tion in Kil­lar­ney at once, Mr Bros­nan said. A sub­se­quent health and safety at work au­dit was un­der­taken in Tu­o­sist NS shortly after­wards and showed an al­most 100 per cent com­pli­ance rate.

“The com­pany ac­cepts they were wrong,” Mr Bros­nan said, adding that safety was of “para­mount” im­por­tance to them. It was will­ing to make a size­able con­tri­bu­tion to the court poor box to avoid a con­vic­tion, he said.

The maximum penalty was a €5,000 fine on each of the two of­fences, Mr Rice out­lined.

Judge James O’Con­nor said it seemed that protective mea­sures were taken but they had not been co-or­di­nated. Mr Rice agreed there was re­ally one in­stance of wrong­do­ing.

The judge agreed to ac­cept a vol­un­tary sum, an of­fer from Mr Bros­nan of €5,000 for a strike out, and ad­journed mat­ters to Oc­to­ber 17.

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