St Albans demolition site manager ‘remorseful’ after labourer’s death: Court Report

Oaklands Lane, Smallford

Oaklands Lane, Smallford - Credit: Archant

Health and safety failings which led to the death of a young labourer have resulted in a demolition site manager being given a suspended prison sentence.

Robert Shore, of Potters Bar, died at the age of 20 when he was struck by a large lump of concrete that fell out of the bucket of an excavator, and hit him on his head.

An inquest ruled that his death, on July 6, 2011, at the former British Telecom Research site in Oaklands Lane, Smallford, was accidental.

But, health and safety investigators found site manager Christopher Langton had failed that morning to take adequate steps to ensure the safety of the young man, who was new to the job and inexperienced in working on demolition sites.

Langton, 49, a married father of two of Cadmore Lane in Cheshunt, appeared for sentencing at St Albans Crown Court on Wednesday (14).

He had been found guilty last week, at the end of a trial, where he had pleaded not guilty to an offence of failing to discharge a duty to which he was subject to by virtue of section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The charge stated that Langton had failed to ensure Mr Shore had remained behind a pedestrian segregation barrier while he was operating a Hitachi excavator on a rubble heap at the former British Telecom Research site.

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Trial Judge Stephen Warner told him: “You will have to live with the knowledge that it was your actions which caused his untimely death.”

He sentenced Langton to five months’ imprisonment, which he suspended for 18 months.

In addition, he was ordered to pay £3,500 towards prosecution costs.

The judge said the jury at Langton’s trial had rejected the account he had given, that he had instructed the young labourer to stay behind a barrier in a ‘safe zone’.

During the trial, the court was told how, during the summer of 2011, work was underway at the Smallford site to demolish a number of buildings.

The defendant was the site manager.

Prosecutor Craig Rush said that on July 6, Langton was operating the excavator on top of a pile of rubble and debris that was to be converted into hardcore.

While he ‘slewed’ the arm of the excavator, with its bucket on the end, which contained rubble, he noticed Mr Shore working close by.

As a result, he stopped the movement of the excavator’s arm, which caused a large lump of concrete to fall out of the bucket and hit Mr Shore on the head, killing him.

The prosecutor said: “He didn’t mean to kill Robert Shore; it was a dreadful accident, but the prosecution say it was completely preventable. He failed to take measures he knew he should have taken and were required.”

Langton, who had a good safety record on demolition sites, had failed to fence off the area where he was working with the excavator.

The judge said he accepted that Langton was ‘very conscious’ of what he had done.

Before his sentencing, the court had been told that he was deeply remorseful for what had happened on July 6.

Judge Warner heard that the death had taken a ‘terrible toll’ on Langton, changing him from someone who before the tragedy had been cheerful to a man who was negative and withdrawn.