Monthly Archives: June 2012

HSE Finds that One in Three London Domestic Basement Projects Fail Health and Safety

It has been established that almost one in three domestic basement projects taking place in four London boroughs fail health and safety spot checks. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) conducted a day-long inspection initiative on 19 June where a group of inspectors visited 59 construction sites in the areas of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden and Haringey.

20 Prohibition Notices were served at 17 of those sites which ordered that dangerous work practices immediately stop, in addition to six Improvement Notices which ordered that improvements be made to health and safety. More than half of the Prohibition Notices were in relation to unsafe practices for work carried out at a height and a fifth were in relation to temporary works that were inadequate, such as methods of support in the form of propping and shuttering. The majority of the Improvement Notices were in regards to training and welfare concerns.

The HSE constructions division’s Principal Inspector in the City and South West London, Andrew Beal, stated that the construction industry is still one of the most dangerous in Britain and that accidents in basements and collapsing buildings can be devastating and deadly. He then went on to say –

“We’ve found similar failings across various sites and we will continue to clampdown on dangerous practices or poor standards until the message gets through.

“Contractors must properly plan their work and protect their workers from risks such as falls from height or structures collapsing.”

Domestic basement construction projects can be significantly risky and be technically challenging. The most common safety issues discovered during the inspection were: when work was planned inadequately, when there was no competent engineer appointed to design suitable propping to support existing structures and excavations, there was few or no welfare facilities for workers, when there were basic precautions missing, such as edge protection to stop workers from falling when working at a height.

Contractor Fined after Decorator Injured from Fall

W Pocock and Sons Limited, a building firm located in New Lane Hill, Tilehurst in Reading has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for safety failings following the serious injury of a 63 year old decorator who fell through a substandard guard rail at a housing development on 30 August last year. Phillip Williams, who was from Reading, sustained fractures in his hip, broke five ribs, chipped a bone in his spine and also suffered internal bleeding and clotting around his lungs as a consequence of the fall which occurred during the construction of a house at Wintringham Way.

Contractor W Pocock and Sons Limited, a local family-run business, had sub-contracted Mr Williams to work at the property. Before the incident he had been walking towards a first floor light-well in order to speak to ground floor workers. After leaning against a wooden guard rail it collapsed and he fell to the ground floor below – approximately 2.6 metres. He then had to spend three weeks in hospital and was unable to return to work for three months.

A HSE investigation discovered that someone had removed and replaced the guard rail in the light well before the accident so that materials could be passed from the ground floor to the first. Apparently this caused the fixings to degenerate which then made the guard rail insufficient for preventing a fall which reflects a failure on the part of the contractor.

W Pocock and Sons pleaded guilty at Reading Magistrates’ Court to one violation of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. They were fined £5,000 in addition to £2,706 in costs.

HSE inspector James Powell had this to say about the incident –

“Mr Williams sustained serious injuries as a result of his fall, which could easily have been avoided had the guard rail been adequately secured to ensure that it could not be displaced.

“It simply wasn’t up to the job, possibly as a result of the rail being removed and replaced on more than one occasion, and the subsequent deterioration this caused to the quality of the fitting.

“A thorough inspection of the guard rail after re-installation would have identified any weakness and could have saved Mr Williams a great deal of trauma. It underlines the need to routinely inspect fall protection equipment used for work at height.”