Exclusion zone where Crossrail worker crushed to death was unclear
- Credit: Getty Images
Communication problems and tiredness contributed to the accidental death of an experienced Slovakian construction worker who became the first casualty on the £15billion Crossrail project, a coroner has ruled.
René Tkacik, 44, of Hackney Road, Shoreditch, was crushed to death by a tonne of wet concrete, and it is ‘most likely’ he was removing excess concrete with a shovel in a tunnel 32ft below Fisher Street, Holborn at the time.
His body was found in an ‘exclusion zone’ where wet concrete was being poured, which had not been clearly marked at the time of his death.
The father-of-one who only spoke rudimentary English would have died instantly, St Pancras Coroners’ Court heard. A jury returned a narrative verdict of accidental death after a six-day inquest.
Coroner Dr Mary Hassell said that three factors had contributed to his death - his state of mind, potentially confusing processes and procedures and an unclear ‘exclusion zone’ which changed from time to time.
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She said: “Firstly, his state of mind – concerns about the quality of his spraying work expressed to him on the day and tiredness caused by his recent accommodation change played a part.
“Communication between the team was poor and often limited to hand gestures for those with English language difficulties.
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“Furthermore, translation of the daily briefing for non English speakers occurred on an ad hoc basis.”
She added: “The definition and supervision of the exclusion zone was unclear and changed from time to time. Furthermore, lack of physical demarcation of the area did not mitigate the potential for confusion.”
Mr Tkacik’s mother, Marta Tkacikova, claimed her son was forced to work under freshly sprayed concrete, contrary to regulations, and said he refused to speak out because he feared losing his job.
Mr Tkacik had trouble sleeping in the days before his death, as he was forced to share a room with three other men in accommodation provided by his employers.
The Crossrail route, due to run through London from Maidenhead, Berks in the west, to Shenfield, Essex, is one of Europe’s largest engineering projects, and this site was run by Bam Ferrovial Kier. Demonstrators from trade unions protested outside court before the start of the inquest with placards reading ‘People before profit.’
Workers construct Crossrail and René Tkacik (inset)