Construction worker died when scaffolding pole fell on his head
PUBLISHED: 18:40 01 March 2012
A construction worker was killed on his cigarette break when a pole fell from one of the largest scaffolding structures in Europe and hit him on the head.
Anton Dochev, 54, was sitting in the smoking area of the £100million pound Grade II listed Lancasters development in Bayswater on August 6, 2010, while part of the scaffolding was being dismantled above him.
An inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court this week heard that the location of the smoking area and its lack of a protective cover had been repeatedly raised with site management.
Health and safety manager Paul James, who left the project a couple of months before Mr Dochev’s death, said the smoking area was in the wrong place and a failure to close it was “gross mismanagement”.
He said: “If I was on site at that time I would have closed off the whole of that area until the dismantling was finished.”
Scaffolding supervisor Anthony Crow agreed, saying: “To put a smoking area under scaffolding, which is a busy site and is being dismantled, is not a good idea.”
He said he had regularly raised the issue at formal health and safety meetings, but the “concerns fell on deaf ears”.
On the day of the tragedy, two “vastly experienced” scaffolders were sent up the “enormous structure” to dismantle a section of redundant scaffolding, the court heard.
One of them undid a clip attached to the scaffolding pole, which then “went like a bullet”, ricocheted off another section and fell to the floor “like a ballistic missile”.
Site safety manager Paul Westie told the court the smoking area was moved after the accident because “it was disrespectful to the deceased to keep it there and the site had moved on and the area needed to be opened up for construction”.
But he claimed precautions at the time of Mr Dochev’s death were “reasonable and appropriate”.
Construction manager Timothy Hawkins said he totally disagreed with the criticism and had “no issue” with the location of the smoking area.
Health and Safety Executive inspector Andrew East, who was brought in to independently review the site after the incident, told the court the incident “could not have been reasonably foreseen”.
He added: “If I had been there before the accident I do not think I would have said there was a problem.”
Summing up, coroner Fiona Wilcox said: “No conclusion was reached whether the deceased was wearing PPE (personal protective equipment). PPE was required in the smoking area, however it would not have prevented the fatality.”.
She added: “A risk of falling objects in the smoking area was identified and communicated prior to the accident. Alternative options included moving the smoking area, covering it with protective measures, or closing it off during scaffolding work but no action was taken.”
The cause of death was given as an accident