Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
November 30, 2011

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Basement inspections blitz uncovers safety failings

More than a third of basement construction sites visited by HSE inspectors during a recent initiative came up short on necessary safety standards, and required enforcement action to be taken.

Inspectors visited 109 sites in four London boroughs – Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster and Wandsworth – on 15 and 16 November. They took enforcement action at 40 sites (37 per cent), serving a total of 76 notices, while conditions at four projects were so dangerous that inspectors were forced to close the sites.

More than half of the Prohibition Notices served deal with real risks of workers falling from height, either into unfenced excavations, or through unprotected floor openings.

Hammersmith & Fulham received the most site inspections – 53 – followed by Kensington & Chelsea (41); Westminster (nine); and Wandsworth (six). Inspectors visiting Hammersmith & Fulham sites issued 27 Prohibition Notices – more than one for every two sites inspected – while, in Kensington & Chelsea, 25 Prohibition Notices were issued.

Some firms were getting the basics of basement construction right. Examples of good practice included:

  • making use of temporary-works engineers to detail the required shoring;
  • the construction of partial-height underpins to reduce the risk of excavation collapse;
  • designers and contractors specifying splices, or composite beams to reduce the weights of beams that have to be manoeuvred into position; and
  • the construction of temporary welfare facilities in front, or rear gardens, as well as the hiring of self-contained portable welfare units.

HSE Principal Inspector Andrew Beal said: “Safety standards in many basement projects are well short of acceptable, as our inspection initiative shows. Companies constructing basements must not be complacent about the risks.”

As a result of poor standards found during the inspections, the HSE has arranged a free awareness event open to all those involved in basement construction, including contractors, project managers and designers, on 19 January 2012 at Wandsworth Town Hall. To reserve a place, e-mail Pauline Storey on [email protected]

Related Topics

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago

Basement construction requires an extensive degree of competence, the potential for structural collapse is highy evident, in premesis which are often occupied. With 30 yrs in Civil`s I am disgusted to find that these companies (specialist) are entitled to free advice, at the tax payers expence. CDM should be used to prosecute these clowns into oblivion. Still, I suppose Mr Cameron will endorse such free enterprise with relish no doubt. He who dares wins fits the bill.

12 years ago

a few years back before I was a H&S Professional, and had work restrictions, recession etc, i worked on a construction site in central london, in a basement. It broke so many regs, for example we were exposed to diesel fumes so thick you couldn’t see your screen in front of you, dust from tile cutting, freezing temperatures, water dripping down, cement etc. It goes on far too much and i believe the HSE should be doing more random site inspections on construction sites.

12 years ago

also, some of these companies are simply not bothering with health and safety. How are they getting away with it? Lack of enforcement perhaps? Employees too afraid to speak up for fear of losing their job? Its a disgrace. And larger companies can be the worst at non-compliance and lack of care for their employees health, safety and welfare.

12 years ago

So what about prosecutions? Many of these PNs must have involved serious risks, when will the HSE learn that simply giving warnings is not enough incentive for some builders. The message is do not bother with health and safety, if you should be unlucky enough to be inspected, then you will only get a ‘slap on the wrist’.