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.”