London developer fined for work at height risks

The unsafe work at height was also captured on camera by the passing HSE inspector

The owner and developer of a construction site in Raynes Park has appeared in court after a sharp-eyed safety inspector twice spotted dangerous work at height from the carriage of a passing train.

A closer inspection of the site on Coombes Lane confirmed work was taking place on and around the roof of a three-storey building without any measures in place to prevent or mitigate a fall.

Peter Alexander Ross, 55, of Putney, was prosecuted yesterday (14 May) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the principal contractor and construction manager for the work.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Ross part-owned the site in question and was overseeing a project to replace former shops with a new-build mixed use complex.

A HSE inspector first spotted unsafe work on 19 August 2013 as he passed by on a train. He headed straight for the site after getting off at the next station, and immediately served a Prohibition Notice to prevent any further work at height until adequate safety measures were put in place.

However, the same inspector making the same train journey witnessed near identical activity less than two months later on 29 October. He again got off the train and visited site before issuing two further notices.

The court was told that although nobody was injured at the site, the fall risk was significant. As the designated principal contractor and person in control of the work, it was Mr Ross’s responsibility to ensure sufficient safety measures were in place.

Peter Alexander Ross, of Beaufort Close, Lynden Gate, SW15, was fined a total of £16,000 and ordered to pay a further £1,200 in costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Mike Gibb commented:   “Peter Ross was the client for the project and appointed himself as the principal contractor. As such the onus was on him to ensure effective safe working methods and procedures were in place.

“The work at height activity we witnessed was inherently unsafe, and the fact we twice had to stop work at the site just weeks apart is shocking. As a dutyholder he failed to learn, and he clearly wasn’t up to standard.

“Principal contractors must ensure they devote adequate resources to planning, managing and monitoring work. If they do not have sufficient expertise themselves in project and site management, and adequate health and safety knowledge, they must ensure they have competent sources of advice and support.

“Clients must also think carefully before they appoint themselves as principal contractor.  They must have the necessary competence to fulfil this role. If not, then a suitably qualified contractor should be brought in.”

Notes to Editors

  1. 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.
  2. Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 state: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
  3. Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “The principal contractor for a project shall (a) plan, manage and monitor the construction phase in a way which ensures that, so far as is reasonably practicable, it is carried out without risks to health or safety.”

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