May 12, 2022 8.00 pm

Construction manager denies safety breach after teenage groundworker dies on site

The trial regarding Josh Disdel’s death continues

A construction manager charged with breaching health and safety following the death of a teenage groundworker on a Boston housing estate did not have the responsibilities alleged by the Health and Safety Executive, a jury was told.

Josh Disdel 18, from Holbeach, was working in a manhole at the White Bridges site off St Thomas Drive, in Boston, when he was hit by a van being driven by a work colleague on the morning of Friday, July 13, 2018.

The teenager, who was just a few weeks into his job, was driven to Boston Pilgrim Hospital but died later the same day after being transferred to the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

The Health and Safety Executive has since brought a prosecution.

Two individuals and one company are standing trial at Lincoln Crown Court accused of health and safety at work breaches.

A second company has admitted breaching health and safety.

P&R Plant Hire (Lincolnshire) Ltd, who employed Mr Disdel and were groundworking sub-contractors on the housing estate project, have pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to failing to ensure the health and safety at work of one its employees.

Brent Woods, who was a construction manager for P&R Plant Hire (Lincolnshire) Ltd, denies a single charge of failing to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of Josh Disdel.

Mr Woods was interviewed about his role in the incident but chose not to give evidence during the trial.

His barrister, Shauna Ritchie, addressing the court in her closing speech, acknowledged Mr Disdel’s death was a “real human tragedy.”

But Miss Ritchie urged the jury “to try the case not on sympathy, but the evidence.”

Miss Ritchie said it was Mr Woods’ right not to give evidence, adding that he did not have to prove anything, and that it was for the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt.

“They have to prove the responsibilities placed on his shoulders by P&R were actually his,” Miss Ritchie insisted.

“Those things were positively not his responsibility,” Miss Ritchie added.

“It is far from clear any of those responsibilities were his.”

Miss Ritchie added that the documentary evidence did not support the prosecution case.

D. Brown (Building Contractors) Ltd, who were the main contractors on the housing estate project, also deny failing to ensure the health and safety of a person other than an employee.

Darrell Tripp, who was site manager for D. Brown on the White Bridges project, denies failing to take reasonable care to ensure the health and safety of others.

The prosecution allege Mr Disdel did not receive an induction for the job he was doing on the day of the incident, but had received an induction on another D.Brown site six weeks earlier.

Jim Buchanan, defending D.Brown Ltd, said the company had shown all considerable care for Mr Disdel.

“I acknowledge it is a difficult submission to make as someone died,” Mr Buchanan admitted.

Mr Buchanan said D.Brown had done all  things that were reasonably practical.

“There was in place a properly trained and competent site manager, Darrell Tripp”

“You heard from him he had worked in construction, and was a highly regarded and competent site manager.”

The unchallenged evidence is that Mr Tripp was properly qualified, Mr Buchanan added.

Craig Hassall QC, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, told the jury Mr Disdel had been picked up by a colleague and taken to White Bridges where they were  tasked to lift up manhole covers on the new estate to clean the drains.

The jury heard work on three manholes was completed and Mr Disdel was lying with his body half way into a fourth manhole when their van was moved so another vehicle could use the road.

Mr Disdel, who was still working in the manhole, was trapped in the collision, Mr Hasall told the jury.

The prosecution alleged that procedures put in place by all of the companies had been abandoned by the time Mr Disdel carried out the job.

“The abandonment of those procedures cost Josh Disdel his life,” Mr Hassall alleged.

The trial continues.

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