Building company director spared jail after labourer died in wall collapse at Birmingham construction site

Oleksander Rudyy died after he became 'buried beneath bricks' when a wall gave way at a development he had been working on in Birmingham
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A company director has been spared jail after a labourer was crushed to death and impaled by a metal bar when a wall collapsed on him at a construction site.

Oleksander Rudyy, 49, became "buried beneath bricks" when the wall gave way at a development he had been working on in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter. Emergency services rushed to the scene and pulled him and another worker from the rubble after a 20 minute rescue on May 8, 2019.

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Mr Rudyy, known as Sasha, had a metal bar impaled in his shoulder and was pronounced dead at the scene despite the efforts of paramedics.

A post mortem revealed he died from crushing asphyxia coupled with catastrophic chest injuries. The other worker suffered serious injuries to his head, neck, chest and back but survived the horror collapse after spending five days in hospital.

A court heard building firm boss Simon Briggs, 61, had decided to put "cost cutting at the expense of safety" prior to the tragedy. There had been no proper plan for the job which was being carried out by inexperienced workers who had been inadequately supervised.

The accident happened while Ukranian born Mr Rudyy removed steel rods from the wall with an angle grinder as part of a large-scale renovation project. As he was not a builder by trade, he was not aware the metal bars played a crucial role in supporting the structure, which then collapsed.

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Briggs, of Danehill, West Sussex, previously admitted contravention of health and safety regulations at Birmingham Crown Court.

Today (Thursday, February 15) he was sentenced to 23 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work. His company, Stonehurst Estates Ltd, which had also pleaded guilty to corporate manslaughter and a health and safety breach, was fined £450,000.

Sentencing, Mrs Justice Yip, said: "Mr Rudyy, originally from Ukraine, came to this country to join his wife in 2004 and found work in the construction industry for many years.

Oleksander Rudyy, known as Sasha with wife Neonila RudaOleksander Rudyy, known as Sasha with wife Neonila Ruda
Oleksander Rudyy, known as Sasha with wife Neonila Ruda

"It is clear he and his co worker did not appreciate the structural significance of the rods. The structure collapsed on them, crushing them. Despite the best efforts of other workers and the emergency services Mr Rudyy, sadly, was pronounced dead at the scene.

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"Mr Rudyy's death was a tragedy which has had a devastating impact for those who loved him. He is deeply missed by his wife and son and family in Ukraine. At the centre of this is the terrible loss of a good man. He was a good worker who followed instructions.

"There was lack of proper training and supervision of unskilled workers, not only Mr Rudyy. Although I can not say there was a wholesale disregard for safety the standard of safety surrounding the demolition work was not good.

"There was an over reliance on common sense and oral communication.

"By failing to properly train, instruct and supervise Mr Rudyy the company fell far below the basic standards of safety within the construction industry."

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A site supervisor, Vasyl Bychkov, 45, who had admitted a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act was given a 18 month community order and ordered to do 135 hours unpaid work

Michael Burrows KC, prosecuting, told the court: "This case is about the death of Oleksander Rudyy.

"On May 8 2019 he was crushed to death while working on a construction site in Vittoria Street. The works there involved the demolition of a building to be converted into residential apartments. Olexander Rudyy was a labourer working at the site. He was not a builder by trade.

"He was working with another labourer on May 8 and cut nine metal rods that ran across the brick wall. It seems that the men did not realise the rods were crucial support to the structure of the cold store.

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"The wall and bricks collapsed on them and both men were buried in bricks."

Company boss Simon BriggsCompany boss Simon Briggs
Company boss Simon Briggs

Mr Burrows said others rushed to the scene and were able to pull the other worker free from the rubble but Mr Rudyy was "covered by a solid wall of bricks".

Mr Burrows said that the company had acquired three properties and work included demolition of a cold store to make way for an underground car park. He said rather than employing a demolition firm they "decided to save costs by doing the demolition work themselves using their own labour who were not trained or experienced in such work."

He added: "They took an opportunist decision to carry out demolition work as soon as possible with obvious and significant risks."

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As far as health and safety on the site there were "obvious defects" with the foreman "barking orders to get the men to work harder and then leaving them to get on with it." Mr Burrows said: "This was not an accident waiting to happen it was bound to happen. They were left to get on with the work on their own.

"There was cost cutting at the expense of safety. There could be no other explanation for the failure to obtain a method statement.

"It is chance that others were not killed or injured."

In a statement Mr Ruddy's widow, Neonila Ruda, said "My husband was an honest and hard-working man. If he was told to do something he would do it. If Sasha was not supposed to be cutting the metal rods why did no one tell him to stop? Why did no one check on him?

"It was clear there was limited supervision and a lack of health and safety. If there had been proper supervision my husband would still be alive today. In 2021 I caught Covid and was admitted to hospital. I thought it would have been easier to die and then I would have been with Sasha.

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"The impact of my husband dying in such a tragic way has had a terrible effect on me.

Site manager Vasyl BychkovSite manager Vasyl Bychkov
Site manager Vasyl Bychkov

"He was my life, my partner, my best friend. He was such a humorous man. His passion was football. He knew everything about football and all the players. My husband was unbeatable at chess and played with our son. Our future disappeared in one tragic moment when I was told Sasha had died.

"When I am in Ukraine I visit his memorial every day which is just a 15 minute walk away from our house. I plan to return to Ukraine to be close to my husband's grave. My family still lives in Ukraine despite the war. My husband was at work and should have been safe.

"The work place should be a safe environment for everyone."

CPS statement

Rosemary Ainslie, head of the CPS special crime division, said afterwards: “Although he was not onsite when this tragedy took place, as director of Stonehurst Estates, Simon Briggs owed a duty of care to Mr Rudyy for any work carried out.

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“He and his company failed to plan and carry out the demolition safely, which led to tragic consequences where a man needlessly lost his life.

“As site manager on the day in question, Vasyl Bychkov, who had no expertise in demolition, asked Mr Rudyy to undertake a task that lacking sufficient expertise, was inherently dangerous.

"He failed to take reasonable care for the health and safety of labourers working at the site. Our thoughts remain with Mr Rudyy’s family and friends at this time.”

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