Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Death of a salvage man

Erik Petersen, died 2001

Aberdeen, Grampian UK - Erik Funck Petersen was believed to have been alone, salvaging a piece architrave from a fire-damaged empty building in Aberdeen when it collapsed, burying him, in 2001. It took two days to recover his body. The official cause of death was crush asphyxia. He was 34.

The court of enquiry found in June 2006 that warnings had been given by a firm of engineers, that the main contractors had no method statement, that a mini-digger had created a worsening structural situation by taking out load-bearing internal partitioning, that Erik Petersen was a lone self-employed salvager, and that a minor collapse had occurred not long before the major resulting in the evacuation of the building one but no-one bothered to tell Erik Petersen. The materials being salvaged were being taken to Aberdeen furniture restoration business which also sells salvage called Awakening Restorations which had supplied Mr Petersen with a key to the building.

The Fatal Inquiry report goes into some detail, and at one point says:
The collapse which killed Erik Petersen was foreseeable from the outset of the refurbishment work because the building was in a dangerous condition following the fire in 1998 and as a result of having been open to the elements since then. Its dangerous condition was identified by the structural engineers and the design supervisors. It was also recognised by Riverside (the main contractors). However, the method of working employed by Riverside involving the use of the mini-digger and piling up debris without propping and without detailed inspection of the structure on an ongoing basis, made the collapse almost inevitable . . . The causes of this accident were manifold and inter-related. Correct implementation of existing codes of practice would have significantly reduced, if not eliminated, the risk of a fatal accident. Riverside Construction Limited have acknowledged their responsibility by pleading guilty to criminal charges in respect of Mr Petersen's death.

Erik Petersen has been described as a skilled and experienced man, who stood no chance when three floors of the building suddenly collapsed This is Scotland: Aberdeen Civic Society: Planning Matters. He came from Banff.

Riverside Construction was fined £35,000 in 2005 after admitting breaches of health and safety regulations.

Mr Petersen's father Jesper said afterwards, "As a family, we were very grateful for the opportunity, after four years, to find out the facts surrounding Erik's death. We sincerely hope that lessons have been learned by parties to the inquiry and by the building industry as a whole as a result of Erik's death, the circumstances surrounding it and the precautions that could have prevented it. I am satisfied that the inquiry has identified reasonable precautions whereby Erik's death might have been avoided." BBC Scotland".

Yesterday, Maggie Petersen, Erik's mother, addressed a conference in Glasgow organised by the Centre of Corporate Accountability calling for Scottish law to be tightened. MSP Karen Gillon had to withdraw the bill from the Scottish Parliament on Friday after it stalled through lack of parliamentary time and support from ministers. Ms Gillon felt Scotland needed the bill due to the passage of a much weaker UK version going through the House of Commons. Mrs Petersen, 63, said, "I feel that if there was a law like the one Karen Gillon is trying to put through it would have a great preventive effect".

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