Series of safety failings cause buildings to collapse without warning..
A construction company based in Buckinghamshire has been prosecuted after an investigation revealed several safety failings that led to the collapse of two buildings in Westminster.
The two buildings were located on Fulham Road in London and collapsed to such an extent that only rubble remained after the accident in January 2011.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that the company and one of its directors were principal contractors for the major construction job in the area that intended to refurbish a block of 14 buildings and constuct 56 new apartments and 13 commerical units. However two of the buildings, numbers 270 and 280 collapsed suddenly and without warning on Sunday 23 January – the fact that there were no injuries was attributed to the fact that the collapse occurred when nobody was working on the site.
It required over a week to clear the debris and rubble from the area and Fulham Road had to be partially closed for months while the stability of other buildings was checked.
HSE investigators issued a Prohibition Notice on the construction project until the site could be declared safe. The investigation had revealed a large number of safety failings that contributed to the collapse of the buildings including the lack of a risk assessment, insufficient training of workers and dangerous work practices. Other risks were noted elsewhere on the site related to unsafe excavation work and fire safety issues. As a result two further Prohibition Notices were served until the construction company complied with expected safety protocols across the site.
The company was fined a total of £14,000 and ordered to pay an additional £9,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to six breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and a single breach of Work at Height Regulations 2005.
The director of the company responsible for the site also pleaded guilty to five separate breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the single Work at Height breach. He was fined £9,500 plus costs of £6,750.
HSE Inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers spoke after the sentencing:
“The development site was a scene of complete devastation following the collapse and had anyone been working at the time there could have been multiple fatalities and serious injuries.
“It is also good fortune that the collapsed building didn’t come down in the direction of the busy Fulham Road, which could also have had tragic consequences.
“Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but they are the only positive outcomes from the incident. The failings we identified at the site were shocking, both in terms of their scale and severity, and there were numerous risks elsewhere that could also have caused death or injury.
“This prosecution should serve to remind directors of construction companies that it is unacceptable to simply assume workers in their care are protected because nobody has complained that standards are poor, or because they have experienced managers on the ground.
Author: Julian Roberts
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