Category Archives: Construction Site Accidents

Demolition Company Fined for Unsafe Work Site

Total Demolition UK has been ordered to pays fines of 5,000 with £2,968 costs after the lives of numerous construction workers were put at risk during the demolition of an old office block in Liverpool on 6 August 2012. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector immediately issued a Prohibition Notice which ordered the company to cease work at the site until there had been proper safety measures implemented to prevent workers from falling from a height.

The HSE inspector visited the site when they were informed that the work being carried out by the firm appeared to be unsafe. Upon arriving, it was clear that much of the building had already been demolished above the second floor. There were two workers who were throwing waste to the ground as they stood next to the edge of where a wall had been removed on the second floor. They were climbing over rubble while there was nothing to prevent them from falling if they lost their footing.

HSE Inspector Jacqueline Western stated –

“When I arrived at the site, it was immediately obvious that workers were in danger of being seriously injured if they fell from the building.

“Two of the employees were throwing waste materials from the edge of the second floor so could easily have fallen if they had tripped over the rubble.

“The company installed a handrail around the open edge of the building after receiving the Prohibition Notice, but if that handrail had been in place at the time of my visit then lives would not have been put at risk.”

Cardiff Building Company Fined after Exposing Workers and Public to Safety Risks

Rimo Construction Ltd, a building company of Vaindre Road, St Mellons, Cardiff, has been fined for failing to follow health and safety regulations and exposing its employees and members of the public to danger while construction work was carried out on a house in Rumney in June 2012. The Health and Safety Exectutive (HSE) has discovered that the employers were working on the roof with the aid of a scaffolding which did not adequately protect them from falling.

On the 28th of June a portion of the scaffolding had been removed, however employees continued working nevertheless. The HSE was alerted by a concerned local resident and an inspector called to the building site to investigate. Rimo Construction was ordered to cease work on the house immediately; however on June 30th employees continued to carry out their work in exactly the same manner. Guard rails and other means of protection should have been implemented to protect the workers from potentially injuring themselves and others.

Subsequently, Rimo Construction was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs after they pleaded guilty to violating Sections 2(1), 3(1) and 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Simon Breen, HSE Inspector, had this to say on the matter –

“The dangers of working at height without adequate edge protection are very clear, yet companies and individuals continue to take risks and cut corners. Rimo Construction was well aware of the precautions it should have been taking, particularly after being served with a Prohibition Notice to stop work on the scaffolds and on the roof. Yet less than 24 hours later the company ignored the risks and the terms of the notice.

Whilst there were no injuries, the workers could have fallen from the scaffolding or roof into the grounds of the neighbouring houses on either side. I hope today’s prosecution serves to remind all companies who expect employees to work at height of their legal duties to properly manage safety, and to provide the necessary protection required to safeguard them and others from falls.”

Construction Company Fined after Unsafe Work Practices

Peak Construction (London) Ltd, of Takeley Road, Bambers Green, Takeley in Essex – a building firm – endangered the lives of its workers and residents in the vicinity of Bristol city centre after repeatedly ignoring warnings about the safety of their redevelopment project. The company was in the middle converting the upper floors of Riverside House in Welsh Back to residential accommodation with the addition of two new timber framed floors on top of the building.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive visited the site six times between August and October 2011 after concerns were raised by members of the public about work practices that seemed unsafe. On every occasion the HSE inspectors found numerous safety concerns regarding the work practice safety of the company which related to working unsafely from a height, utilising a mobile elevating work platform without the wearing of worker harnesses, no edge protection to prevent workers from falling, negligent construction of scaffolding and a hazard with building materials falling from the roof.

Furthermore, numerous fire risks were identified by inspectors, such as a lack of fire plan, no way of raising an alarm if there was a fire, no fire extinguishers, no emergency escape routes and the use of an open flame gas torch in the timber roof with no fire safety protocols in place. The HSE served seven Prohibition Notices for work to cease with immediate effect, however some hazardous practices continued nonetheless.

Peak Construction (London) Ltd, admitted guilt for breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Regulation 38 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for failing to implement adequate health and safety regulations, and for permitting hazardous practices to continue. The company was ordered to pay fines that totalled £10,000 and also ordered to pay £4,629 in costs by Bristol Magistrates.

HSE Inspector, Steve Frain, had this to say after the hearing –

“Right from the start of the job, the company was warned about its health and safety performance and individual directors were made aware of the initial failings we identified at the site.

“The number of follow-up inspections and interventions we made in this case went far beyond what would normally be required. The same risks were clearly pointed out at each inspection, yet still the company failed to take sufficient action.

“Falls from height are the single most significant cause of death or serious injury within the construction industry and timber frame construction methods pose a greatly increased fire safety risk that requires high standards of management and control throughout a project.

“Although there was no fire on this occasion, a fire on this site carried a high risk of serious injury to the workforce and members of the public.

“These are not minor technical breaches of the law. They show a failure of leadership across the company which led to a high risk of significant injuries.”

Six Consturction Sites Closed after HSE Safety Checks

Construction works at six sites in Bradford has been ordered to cease due to health and safety breaches found by a Health and Safety Executive investigation carried out in relation to an initiative focusing on the safety of the construction industry. In the first week of September 61 sites in West and South Yorkshire were investigated. Although most had adequate health and safety measures in place, six small construction sites in Bradford district failed to live up to these standards.

Three of the sites were served HSE Prohibition Notices by HSE inspectors when they discovered that the lives of the workers were being put at risk due to unsafe work practices, poorly planned execution of work and inadequate scaffolding measures. The remaining three buildings sites were served notices for other matters related to safety. This HSE campaign for building site inspection was carried out in response to the fact that death from a height is a continuous occurrence in this industry. 49 workers died on UK construction sites in the last year and falling from height is the most common cause of death.

Principal Inspector for construction in the Yorkshire region for the HSE, David Stewart, had this to say on the matter –

“Whilst the initiative was primarily to raise awareness of the problem of unsafe working practices, it is of concern that work at height was being undertaken in a dangerous manner on three sites.

“Straightforward practical precautions are well known in the industry. Safe access equipment is readily available for purchase or hire and there is no excuse for workers, and the self employed, to put themselves in a position of danger when working at height.

“There was a marginal, though still welcome, improvement for this inspection activity on previous ones in terms of the ratio of good to poor performances but there is no reason to be complacent.

“HSE will continue to maintain a strong enforcement profile where there is blatant disregard to safe working practice.”

Three Companies fined for the Fall of Two Construction Workers

Three companies have been fined £232,000 in fines and costs by Exeter Crown Court after a platform that two employees of were working on in an Exeter building site collapsed and fell down a lift shaft for four storeys, causing them to sustain severe injuries in February 2008. The incident occurred in a site where new student accommodation is being built at what used to be the Elmfield Nursery in New North Road.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) brought the case to the attention of the court. Cowlin Construction Ltd ordered to pay £85,000 in fines and £20,000 in costs by the court . Prestoplan Ltd, ordered to pay £50,000 and £20,000 towards costs and Somerset Carpenters Ltd, the labourer suppliers, ordered to pay £35,000 fines with £22,000 costs.

Somerset Carpenters had previously been served with a prohibition notice by the HSE after they inspected the site. This should have put a halt to work at the construction site until preventative measures had been put in place to stop workers from potentially falling down the lift shaft. Following this, a wooden platform was built over the shaft but a fortnight later it collapsed and caused Ricki Slocombe (35) and Matthew Blackmore (29), both from Bridgwater, to fall to the bottom floor.

Mr Blackmore broke his back and Mr Slocombe broke both his legs and was forced to use a wheelchair for several months and he has been unable to work since this incident occurred.

HSE inspector, Simon Chilcott said that this terrifying accident could have easily led to the deaths of the two men. He added –

“Contractors and employers must make sure they have taken all reasonable measures to provide a safe environment for workers to work in and that any temporary structures are secure.”

Cheltenham Retailer and Contractor Prosecuted after Asbestos Incident

Cheltenham contractor, Simon Cooper, and retailer, Hutchinson HiFi and Vision Ltd, have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following an incident where a construction worker was exposed to asbestos while working on a refurbishment project. Simon Cooper was employed by Hutchinson HiFi and Vision Ltd in February 2010 to refurbish an empty shop unit in Cheltenham High Street, which involved replacing a suspended ceiling.

Simon Cooper did not make sure that an asbestos survey was carried out before refurbishments began.  Resultantly, the construction site workers, including Matthew Thompson 28, from Cheltenham, were forced to remove 85m of asbestos insulating board over two days without the required controls or any sufficient protection.

It was also found that Hutchinson HiFi and Vision Ltd did not inform Mr Cooper about the asbestos in the building. A demolition and refurbishment survey should have been carried piror out and the results made provided to Mr Cooper.

In Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court, Hutchinson HiFi & Vision Ltd was fined £3,500 and ordered to pay £1,836 in costs after they pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10 (1) (b) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007. Simon Cooper admitted guilt to violating Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was ordered to pay fines of £600 in addition to £800 in costs.

Following the hearing, Simon Chilcott, a HSE inspector, said:

“As a result of the failings of Simon Cooper and Hutchinson HiFi and Vision, people were unnecessarily exposed to asbestos. This incident could have been avoided if the retailer had provided information on the presence of asbestos in the building and Mr Cooper had ensured he had seen a demolition and refurbishment survey before commencing the renovation work.

“The risks of asbestos are well known in the construction industry as are the controls required in dealing with it. Exposure to asbestos can have fatal or serious long term health consequences and, as such, every precaution must be taken to minimise any risks when working on buildings.”

Nearly One in Five Construction Sites Fail Safety Checks

During a national initiative to improve the safety of construction sites in the UK, nearly one in five construction sites failed safety checks, which is actually a slight improvement on the years previously. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors went to 3237 sites and saw 4080 contractors. However, it was discovered that 581 sites put workers at risk with unsafe work practices – 870 enforcement notices were issued and work was immediately put to a halt in 603 instances.

The Chief Inspector of Construction, Philip White, had this to say on the matter –

“It is encouraging that inspectors found a slight improvement in standards and small construction firms are taking safety seriously when carrying out refurbishment work.

“But this is just a snapshot, and the number of notices served for unsafe work at height is still unacceptable, particularly when the safety measures are well-known and straightforward to implement.

“Too many contractors continue to put their own or other people’s lives at risk and we will not hesitate to take action where standards are not met.”

The HSE inspectors focused on construction sites where refurbishment or repair work was being performed. This was all in conjunction with an annual, month-long drive across Britain. Its aim is to reduce the risk of death, injury and ill health within the construction industry. High-risk activity, for instance, working at height, was being focused on while the inspectors also sought to ensure that sites were clean and tidy with clear access routes.

One of the most common causes of deaths and major injury in the construction industry is falling from a height. It is also responsible for the largest proportion of enforcement notices issued by the HSE at 49%. However this is still an improvement than in previous years, for example, it was 55% in 2010.

Construction Company Fined after Worker Fall

Preseli Construction & Maintenance Ltd – a Pembroke Dock construction company – and its director have been prosecuted by Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court after a labourer was seriously injured on a construction site on 25 March 2010. The labourer, 31 year old Karl Kraus from Pembroke Dock, was working on a three storey domestic property in Saundersfoot when he was told to remove a concrete block that had been placed in a doorway. He then fell to the balcony seven metres below him when he tried to throw the block.

Mr Kraus the had to undergo surgery to pin the bone in his left heel and was forced to spend six days in Morriston Hospital in Swansea followed by ten months in a plaster cast. He still suffers with severe pain constantly and is no longer able to walk on uneven ground without the risk of a fall. Further surgery is necessary for his foot in order to prevent more damage being done. However, he will never be able to work in the construction industry again.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the construction site incident and discovered that there was no scaffold or any type of fall prevention implemented. The company and its director, Mr Christopher Newell, had failed to provide a safe work environment for employees and also failed to ensure that work at height was properly undergone in a correct and well-supervised manner.

Preseli Construction & Maintenance Ltd was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,376.25 after pleading guilty to a breach of Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Mr Christopher Newell was fined £4,000, with costs of £2,376.25 after he also also pleaded guilty to violating Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.  He has also been disallowed from acting as a company director or engaging in management business in the company for at least two years.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Anne-Marie Orrells spoke of how he was no unable to live a normal, everyday life and perform simple tasks because of the constructions site’s failure to implement proper safety measures to portect employees. She added –

“This is a typical example of high risk work being conducted in an unsafe manner. Had scaffolding been put in place, this incident could so easily have been prevented.”