Aerospace company found guilty of corporate manslaughter after man crushed to death at Cambridge Airport

Paul Bowers.

Paul Bowers. - Credit: Archant

An international aerospace company has been found guilty of corporate manslaughter and putting their employees at risk following the death of one of its employees in 2013.

On January 26, 2013, Paul Bowers, a contractor working for CAV Aerospace based at warehouse premises within Cambridge Airport, was crushed to death while at work.

Mr Bowers was crushed by several tonnes of aircraft-grade aluminium and died at the scene despite the best efforts of the ambulance and fire service crews.

During the trial, which started at The Old Bailey on June 1, the jury were told how the premises in which Mr Bowers 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.

The warehouse after the accident.

The warehouse after the accident. - Credit: Archant

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On the day of Mr Bowers’ death, he and a colleague were working in the warehouse when a stack of stringers weighing several tonnes collapsed, landing on top of Mr Bowers 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 Mr Bowers 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.

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Had the walkway of been clear when the stringers fell on Mr Bowers, 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.

Mr Bowers, who lived in Peverel Close, Cambridge, was 47-years-old 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.

The warehouse before the accident.

The warehouse before the accident. - Credit: Archant

Detective Constable Simon Albrow, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire 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.

Correct storage levels.

Correct storage levels. - Credit: Archant

“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.

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.

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