Cambridge Firm: Guilty Of Corporate Manslaughter

An aerospace company based at Cambridge Airport has today been found guilty of corporate manslaughter and putting their employees at risk.

On the 26th of January 2013, Paul Bowers, a contractor working for CAV Aerospace based at warehouse premises within Cambridge Airport, was crushed to death by several tonnes of aircraft-grade aluminium.

CAV Just After Accident

Mr Bowers died at the scene despite the best efforts of the ambulance and fire service crews.

During the trial, which started at The Old Bailey, the jury were told how the premises in which Paul worked in was over-crowed with aircraft grade aluminium 'stringers' which formed skeletal structures inside aircrafts for large parts such as wings.

This was an issue which was raised by Cambridge managers to senior management within the parent company, CAV Aerospace, several times over years due to it being unsafe, however no action was ever taken.

On the day of Paul's death, he and a colleague were working in the warehouse when a stack of stringers weighing several tonnes collapsed, landing on top of Paul and crushing him. He died at the scene despite the best efforts of the ambulance and fire service crews, whilst his colleague escaped with minor injuries.

The jury also heard how Paul was in a walkway which should have been a completely clear area, however it was being used to store extra stock material. Either side of the walkway the stacks of stringers were above maximum safe heights.

Had the walkway of been clear when the stringers fell on Paul, medics believe he would not have suffered fatal injuries. Instead it is likely he would have suffered injuries to his legs only, which, whilst life changing, would likely not have proved fatal.

Paul, who lived in Peverel Close, Cambridge, was 47 when he died and had been contracted to work as a Warehouse Operative for CAV Cambridge. He had only been there for 19 days before his death.

Detective Constable Simon Albrow, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts Major Crime Unit, said:

"Following a joint investigation which was launched between ourselves and the Health and Safety Executive in March 2013, we came to the conclusion that no single person was to blame for Paul's death.

As parent company to CAV Cambridge, CAV Aerospace failed to act on safety risks which were brought to their attention at the Cambridge site. We therefore sought to prosecute the company for corporate manslaughter due to the collective failings in the management and control of CAV Cambridge which ultimately led to this tragic loss of life.

While nothing we do can fully fill the hole that Paul’s death has left within his family, I do hope this conviction provides some closure for them."

Health and Safety Executive Inspector, Graham Tompkins, said:

"CAV Aerospace failed to listen to repeated warnings about the dangers they were exposing workers to when metal billets were stacked too high and without restraints.

The CAV Aerospace board did not act on requests from their local managers or an independent health and safety consultant’s advice that a new stacking system was needed, as well as reducing the amount of metal billets stored, before someone got hurt.

Paul Bowers paid the ultimate price for the company’s senior managers ignoring that advice and his death was entirely preventable.

Company directors and senior managers need to learn from this tragic case and take the right steps to protect their workers."

On the 26th of January 2013, Paul Bowers, a contractor working for CAV Aerospace based at warehouse premises within Cambridge Airport, was crushed to death by several tonnes of aircraft-grade aluminium.

CAV Just After Accident

Mr Bowers died at the scene despite the best efforts of the ambulance and fire service crews.

During the trial, which started at The Old Bailey, the jury were told how the premises in which Paul worked in was over-crowed with aircraft grade aluminium 'stringers' which formed skeletal structures inside aircrafts for large parts such as wings.

This was an issue which was raised by Cambridge managers to senior management within the parent company, CAV Aerospace, several times over years due to it being unsafe, however no action was ever taken.

On the day of Paul's death, he and a colleague were working in the warehouse when a stack of stringers weighing several tonnes collapsed, landing on top of Paul and crushing him. He died at the scene despite the best efforts of the ambulance and fire service crews, whilst his colleague escaped with minor injuries.

The jury also heard how Paul was in a walkway which should have been a completely clear area, however it was being used to store extra stock material. Either side of the walkway the stacks of stringers were above maximum safe heights.

Had the walkway of been clear when the stringers fell on Paul, medics believe he would not have suffered fatal injuries. Instead it is likely he would have suffered injuries to his legs only, which, whilst life changing, would likely not have proved fatal.

Paul, who lived in Peverel Close, Cambridge, was 47 when he died and had been contracted to work as a Warehouse Operative for CAV Cambridge. He had only been there for 19 days before his death.

Detective Constable Simon Albrow, from the Beds, Cambs and Herts Major Crime Unit, said:

"Following a joint investigation which was launched between ourselves and the Health and Safety Executive in March 2013, we came to the conclusion that no single person was to blame for Paul's death.

As parent company to CAV Cambridge, CAV Aerospace failed to act on safety risks which were brought to their attention at the Cambridge site. We therefore sought to prosecute the company for corporate manslaughter due to the collective failings in the management and control of CAV Cambridge which ultimately led to this tragic loss of life.

While nothing we do can fully fill the hole that Paul’s death has left within his family, I do hope this conviction provides some closure for them."

Health and Safety Executive Inspector, Graham Tompkins, said:

"CAV Aerospace failed to listen to repeated warnings about the dangers they were exposing workers to when metal billets were stacked too high and without restraints.

The CAV Aerospace board did not act on requests from their local managers or an independent health and safety consultant’s advice that a new stacking system was needed, as well as reducing the amount of metal billets stored, before someone got hurt.

Paul Bowers paid the ultimate price for the company’s senior managers ignoring that advice and his death was entirely preventable.

Company directors and senior managers need to learn from this tragic case and take the right steps to protect their workers."

CAV Aerospace was found guilty of corporate manslaughter following an eight-week trial which started at The Old Bailey on June 1.

Jose Bowers, the widow of Paul Bowers, said,

"On the afternoon of Saturday, January 26, 2013 I had the devastating knock on our door to tell me that Paul had died following an accident at work.

"I didn’t take it in at the time as I had spoken to him on the phone during his lunchbreak just a couple of hours earlier, when it started to sink in I couldn’t think how I was going to tell the children or our families. They were the hardest telephone calls I have ever had to make.

"It was only the beginning of having to deal with the sometimes unbearable sadness and unsurmountable hurdles to carry on living without my husband and soulmate. I would not have been able to cope during this time and since, if it hadn’t been for the love and support given to me by Paul’s children, my daughters, our families and our friends. 

"This has taken from me an amazing and unique husband and our children have lost a very special father and stepfather. Paul was only 47-years-old and we had a lifetime still to share with each other.

"Paul was a lovely man with many, many friends who had a passion for cooking international dishes from scratch, for river and lake fishing and he spent many years perfecting his Koi fish pond but over and above these things Paul was a family man.
 
"I miss Paul every day and he is never far from my thoughts, but I take comfort that I had the greatest good fortune not only to meet him, but to be loved by him and I spent the most amazing five years with him. It was, and continues to be, an honour and a privilege to say he was my husband.”

The company was also found guilty under the Health and Safety at Work Act of exposing workers to risks to their personal safety.

Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, July 31.

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