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May 11, 2011

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Court condemns cavalier construction company

A property developer has appeared in court after the HSE ordered it to stop work at a construction site in Manchester on three separate occasions.

On 7 May 2008, the HSE carried out a surprise inspection at the site in Stanhope Road, Bowden, where Prestige Homes Construction Company Ltd was building a six-bedroom mansion. Inspectors found open edges around the foundations, which posed a risk of workers falling ten feet into the basement of the property. The firm was issued a Prohibition Notice ordering it to stop work until A-frame scaffolding was placed around the foundations to remove the fall risk.

HSE inspector, Ian Bentley, returned to the site for another surprise inspection on 28 July 2009, and found large amounts of rubble across the site that presented trip hazards. He issued a Prohibition Notice, which stopped work at the site until the rubble had been removed. Inspector Bentley told SHP: “This was the worst site for untidiness I had ever seen and workers were at great risk of tripping over the rubble, which was predominantly being stored at the foot of the scaffolding.”

When he revisited the site again on 13 August 2009, to see if the company had complied with the notice. He found that the rubble had been removed but discovered the scaffolding was in a dangerous condition. There were missing guardrails and toe boards, and gaps in the platforms. As well as issuing a HSE issued a third Prohibition Notice, the HSE took the decision to prosecute.

Inspector Bentley said: “The lives of several construction workers were put at risk because Prestige Homes failed to make sure the site remained safe. We gave the company two chances to improve standards but, in the end, we had no choice but to prosecute.

Falls from height remain the biggest cause of workplace deaths and one of the main causes of injury. We found missing guardrails on two separate occasions, which meant it would have been dangerous to work on the site.”

Prestige Homes Construction Company appeared at Manchester Crown Court on 6 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and reg. 27(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, for failing to keep the site in a state of reasonable cleanliness. It was fined £5000 for each offence and ordered to pay £4792 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and had since complied with Prohibition Notice. It subsequently placed a health and safety manager at the site to ensure that the work was completed safely.

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