Wembley-based HS2 contractor sentenced and fined five years after labourer’s death

The aftermath of the tragic incident in Grosvenor Square, in 2014. Picture: Health and Safety Execut

The aftermath of the tragic incident in Grosvenor Square, in 2014. Picture: Health and Safety Executive - Credit: Archant

A Wembley construction firm has been fined half a million pounds after a father-of-two was killed in a demolition project.

McGee Group Limited, which is based at Athlon Road in Alperton, pled guilty to a breach of the Construction Regulations 2007 in Southwark Crown Court earlier this month.

The company was fined £500,000 with £66,236.22 in costs in relation to the death of a 33-year-old labourer, Dainius Rupsys.

The firm told the Times it accepted the court's findings and the "tragic incident" had claimed the life of "a popular and valued member of the team".

On April 14, 2014, Dainius Rupsys, a Lithuanian national with two children, was working on a site in Grosvenor Square, central London.

They were preparing to demolish a multi-storey building - a former US naval headquarters - ahead of 31 new luxury flats being built.

Mr Rupsys had been burning through reinforcing steel bars with a thermal lance, in order to help a colleague remove part of a reinforced steel slab using a 360 excavator: a type of mini-digger.

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A third worker, the court heard, then warned the supervisor that their work had made the structure unsafe, and the demolition was stopped.

But, the court heard, the supervisor then ordered the removal of props supporting the remaining slab. Less than 10 minutes later it collapsed.

The court heard that the 360 excavator could have moved back onto the slab after the props were removed.

Mr Rupsys, the heavy construction equipment and the person who was operating it in the cab all fell with the slab. Mr Rupsys suffered severe head injuries and died at the scene. His colleague also injured his back.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that in the weeks before the incident, CCTV from the site showed other demolition work had also been carried out unsafely.

It also found Mr Rupsys had not been trained to use the oxy-propane lance and had had no training on how to use his safety harness.

After the court hearing on January 10 this year, HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers said: "In the weeks prior to this tragic incident workers were regularly put at an acute risk of falling.

"This is a case of a company wanting to have good systems to protect the workers, but not paying enough attention to what was actually happening at the site.

"This young man's death could have been prevented. Mr Rupsys should not have been allowed to operate an oxy propane lance.

"Employers have a duty to check workers have sufficient skills, knowledge, experience and training before they allow them to use equipment."

McGee Group was the principal contractor for the Grosvenor Square site.

According to its most recent accounts the company had a £100m turnover in 2018.

It operates across the UK and its current "live" projects include demolition works at Euston and Victoria Stations in preparation for HS2.

The group's managing director, Seb Fossey, said the firm accepted the sentencing decision at Southwark.

He added: "McGee worked closely with the Health and Safety Executive during the course of their thorough and comprehensive investigation and has cooperated fully throughout the legal proceedings.

"We will continue to work hard to achieve the highest standards of health and safety for our employees and members of the public.

"The death of Mr Rupsys was a tragic incident and our thoughts continue to be with his family. Dainius was a popular and valued member of the McGee team and he has been sorely missed."

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