Three fined over 2016 death of 19-year-old construction worker

Three men fined €26,000 between them in connection with the death of a 19-year-old construction worker, who died in 2016 after falling from a height at a building site in Pietà

died in 2016 after falling from a height at a building site in Pietà
died in 2016 after falling from a height at a building site in Pietà

Three men have been fined €26,000 between them in connection with the death of a 19-year-old construction worker, who died in 2016 after falling from a height at a building site in Pietà.

George Cassar, 61, from Qormi, Joseph Grech, 60, from Pietà and 71-year-old Anthony Sammut from Sliema were charged with the involuntary homicide of Samuel Camilleri.

Camilleri died on 23 February 2016 on a construction site on Triq id-Duluri tal-Pietà. The 19-year-old victim had fallen to his death from a height of three storeys, suffering fractures to his skull and a number of ribs.

In court it emerged that at the time of the incident, Camilleri and contractor George Cassar had been putting up shuttering on the third floor in preparation for the pouring of concrete when the victim fell down into the internal yard. Neither Grech, who was the project supervisor, nor Sammut had been on site at the time of the incident.

Cassar, who was the victim’s employer, had also been charged with a number of offences relating to health and safety breaches, as well as with recidivism.

The project’s supervisors, Grech and Sammut, had been accused of failing to appoint competent supervisors at both the design and construction stages, as well as with having failed to prepare a health and safety plan.

Grech, who was the owner of the building and the project’s supervisor, was further accused of failing to coordinate and implement general health and safety principles.

Sammut and Grech had agreed that Sammut would pay half of the project’s expenses.

In his judgement, Magistrate Leonard Caruana noted how the Ħamrun district police were informed after Camilleri was admitted to Mater Dei Hospital, where he died a short while later.

Architect Charles Farrugia had gone to the site at the request of the Occupational Health and Safety Authority. The court heard how Farrugia had found a pool of blood on the floor of the internal yard and on some wooden boards there. He discovered missing boards on the shuttering, corresponding to those found in the internal yard, below.

The architect found that several health and safety measures had not been implemented. The victim and a colleague had been preparing the shuttering for a balcony, on wooden boards that were only secured at one end. Were someone to step on the boards, they would give way, he said.

The site had first been issued with a stop order in January 2011, and another one was subsequently issued on the day of the fatal incident, said the witness, who also exhibited an email featuring the Occupational Health and Safety Plan dated 29 March 2016.

Grech was listed as the client and project supervisor on official documentation. The architect observed that although this was not illegal, the defendant had no qualifications, training or even experience in the field.

A health and safety officer who had submitted the plans to the OHSA in May 2016 testified that at the time of his engagement, one or two storeys had already been built. The OHSA had issued a Stop Order, requiring a competent health and safety officer be present on site, as well as remedial works be undertaken.

Another court expert testified that the shuttering was being prepared on the second floor, he explained that it was impossible to set up safety nets when carrying out that type of work on a roof and that harnessed were impractical when carrying out formwork.

Although helmets were available on site, the victim had not been wearing one at the time of his fall.

Jeffrey Cassar, son of one of the defendants, had not been present on site when the incident happened, but testified to having frequently reprimanded Camilleri for looking at his phone while carrying out dangerous tasks. Camilleri phone had started ringing when his body was being taken away, he added.

A fellow worker who had been working on another part of the site also told the court that he had seen the victim using his phone several times on the day he died, and that Camilleri had been arguing with someone on a phone call earlier that morning.

A number of previous OHSA inspections had found nothing wrong.

Grech told the court that he had told Camilleri not to use the phone twice on the day of the incident, on one occasion after seeing the victim on his phone, while walking along the unsecured shuttering boards.

Cassar was fined €10,000 after being found guilty of involuntary homicide and health and safety breaches.

Grech was also found guilty of involuntary homicide and a health and safety violations, for which he was ordered to pay a €9,000 fine.

Sammut was fined €7,000 for health and safety breaches.

The defendants were also ordered to pay a total of €2,085.96 in court expenses, between them.

Inspector Robert Vella prosecuted.