Owner of building company digs trench that makes nearby house unstable..
A construction firm has been fined after a house collapsed as a result of a trench that was excavated next to it.
Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court today heard that the company had been working on an extension to a property in Blackburn Avenue. The owner of the firm proceeded to dig a foundation trench beside the house that eventually collapsed – the trench had been built too close to the house and to the same depth as it.
The house partially collapsed on 23 February 2013, the same day the trench was built, as an upstairs bedroom and garage both were destroyed. At the time of the accident, the residents were not in the house, or the consequences of the shoddy building work might have had even more serious consequences. Almost half of the property had to be demolished before it could be renovated and made safe again.
The subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation discovered that the owner of the company had failed in his legally obliged duty to inform the owners of the house that he was building a trench next to it. He had also previously been informed by a consultant not to interfere with the foundations of the house.
The Wolverhampton-based company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £7,500 and ordered to additional prosecution costs of £4,500.
HSE inspector Gareth Langston commented after the hearing:
“This was a serious incident that could have easily been prevented had the company followed the recognised procedure relating to party walls and detailed the work to the neighbour’s consultant. The consultant would have realised the implications and stopped him. Even so, the owner of the building company is an experienced builder and should have known better in the first place.
“The trench should have been dug in metre-long sections, pouring in concrete and waiting until it had set before digging the next section. This would have underpinned and supported the wall of the neighbouring house. “It was extremely fortunate that the occupants were out of the house at the time of the collapse. This could so easily have had much more serious consequences.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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