Two building firms have been ordered to pay a total of £72,000 in fines and costs after a floor collapsed during the construction of a six-bedroom mansion in Trafford, injuring three workers.
One of the men sustained major injuries when he was struck by a falling concrete beam, was in hospital for five weeks and has been unable to return to work following the incident on 11 November 2011.
Belmont Homes (Cheshire) Ltd and Sale-based Waymac Ltd were both prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found that work at the site had been badly planned, putting multiple lives in danger.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that property-developer Belmont had brought in several contractors, including bricklaying firm Waymac, to help with the construction of the four-storey property, valued at £2 million, on South Downs Road in Bowdon.
During the project, the firms discovered that the frame for the first floor was too high and needed to be lowered. This meant reducing the height of some of the concrete padstones that the frame rested on by lifting the frame and then lowering it back down.
As the concrete beams for the floor were put in place following this work, the floor collapsed. Three of the men fell with it, with the beams falling on top of them.
Two workers escaped with minor injuries but one suffered severe injuries when he put up his left arm to protect his head from a falling concrete beam, weighing around half a tonne.
The 47-year-old from Wythenshawe sustained a crushed arm, fractured ribs, punctured lung, broken collar bone and damage to his back. He has lost the use of his left hand and only has very limited use of his left arm.
The HSE investigation found the work to lower the steel frame had been badly planned, and neither company had considered the potential risk of collapse while the structure was in a temporarily weakened state.
Belmont Homes (Cheshire) Ltd, of Budworth Heath in Cheshire, was fined £33,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of workers.
Waymac Ltd, of Eastway in Sale, was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 by failing to ensure the structure did not collapse as a result of its work.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Neil Jamieson said:
“One of the workers has suffered devastating injuries as a result of the collapse, and the other two were lucky not to have been more seriously injured or even killed.
“Belmont was responsible for the overall management of the work and the company failed to get a grip of the project. Waymac is also an experienced bricklaying firm and it should have been obvious to both companies that lifting and lowering the floor could be dangerous.
“They should have sought the advice of a structural engineer before allowing the work to go ahead. If they had then the injuries the workers suffered could have been avoided.”
According to the latest figures, workers in the construction industry are four times as likely to be killed at work compared to the average worker. Information on improving safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/construction.
Notes to Editors
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk.
- Regulation 28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “All practicable steps shall be taken, where necessary to prevent danger to any person, to ensure that any new or existing structure or any part of such structure which may become unstable or in a temporary state of weakness or instability due to the carrying out of construction work does not collapse.”
- Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
- HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.