Engineering Company Fined €200,000 in Court

A Waterford based civil engineering company has received a €200,000 fine in Kilkenny Circuit Court for an on-site incident that left one of its workers paralysed from the waist down.
Tony Kirwan Civil Engineering Contractors Ltd, with its headquarters located at Ballybrack, Kilmacthomas, County Waterford, pleaded guilty to failing to provide a safe system of work at a construction site in Kilkenny on April 26th, 2016. Ground at the site at Kilaree Quarry, Treecastle, County Kilkenny was rendered unstable due to excavation work, leading to a soil collapse on top of two employees working at the time in a trench box. The court heard that if a second trench box been placed on the existing trench box, bringing it level with the ground, the offence would not have occurred. A public lighting cable was found beneath the surface which, the court heard, prevented workers from immediately using a second trench box.
Health and Safety Authority inspector Tom Murphy told the court that if ongoing examinations of the site were carried out, the problem would have been discovered and work could have been halted.
Alternatives to a second trench box, such as struts, could also have been used he said. The court heard that a preliminary safety report carried out prior to beginning the project was an ideal document, but was not put to full use.

Kilkenny Circuit Court

Kilkenny Circuit Court

Instead David Whelan, from Dungarvan, was left with life-long injuries. The other employee escaped with minor injuries due to “pure chance”, the court heard. Mr Whelan, now 42, has found his life changed dramatically over the past two years, according to a statement read out in court.
Whereas before he would have sympathy for someone in a wheelchair because they could not walk, he now sees that a spinal chord injury also leads to regular neurological and bladder problems as well as fatigue. He thanked his wife and two daughters for helping him, and also said the company continues to be of great support to him.
Defence counsel informed the court that the firm has been paying Mr Whelan’s wages in full since the accident while continuing to make other contributions.
It was further noted by Sara Phelan SC, defending, that this was the only occasion the company was facing prosecution and, said director Eoin Leane, its management has done everything to ensure incidents such as that involving Mr Whelan would not happen again. Mr Leane, speaking for the company to the court, said it fully acknowledges its fault and formally apologised to Mr Whelan in the courtroom.

Its accountant, David Power, from Fitzgerald Power Chartered Accountants, told the court that the company’s 2017 turnover will be found to be significantly down on 2016 when the books are finalised in September. He further said that its valuation at the end of 2016 was a negative figure and that the company continues to owe money that stretches back to the recession, but is kept afloat by its sister company, Tony Kirwan Plant Hire.
Judge Patrick Meghan commended the firm for going beyond a “formulaic response” to the incident, saying there is a genuine relationship between it and the injured party.
Noting that it currently employs 17 people, he said that in order for it to continue to trade without a loss of staff he would structure the fine so that it can be paid over a five-year period at €40,000 each year.

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