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August 5, 2013

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Two-tonne archway collapsed during refurbishment

 

Two firms have been fined after a brick archway collapsed and injured two workers during a major refurbishment project in Newcastle.
 
The two-tonne archway, at the former toffee factory in Ouseburn, had become unstable due to the removal of some masonry on one of the support pillars. The two workers, both joiners, were shoring up the arch when it collapsed, on 15 February 2011. One of the workers injured his back, while the other fractured his foot.
 
Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP, the designers on the project, and Brims Construction Ltd, the principal contractor, were both prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation into the collapse identified numerous safety failings. 
 
Newcastle Magistrates’ Court was told that brick pillars adjoining the archway had been weakened after ‘pockets’ were created in the masonry to hold steel beams. The removal of the masonry caused the arch to become unstable, as the pillars had acted as a buttress. Brims’ site foreman was made aware of the condition of the arch and instructed the two joiners to shore it up. 
 
The workers created a plan of work but it was not reviewed by Brims to check it was a safe method of working. The court was told that Brims Construction Ltd failed to plan and manage the work to deal with the unstable archway safely.
 
The HSE inspection found that Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP didn’t provide sufficient information in their designs to ensure those carrying out the work would have known removing the masonry would have caused the archway to become unstable.
 
The inspection found that several steps could have been taken to avoid the incident, including supporting the arch before the work started, or carrying out a controlled demolition prior to rebuilding the arch.
 
Sentenced on 1 August, Brims Construction Ltd, of Sunderland, was fined £1000 and ordered to pay £5000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
 
Cundall Johnston and Partners LLP, of Newcastle, was fined £1000 and ordered to pay costs of £7000 after pleading guilty to a breach of regulation 11(6)(c) of the same legislation.
 
HSE inspector Keith Partington said: “The incident could have easily been avoided. If  the designers had ensured sufficient information was available in the drawings, it would have alerted those carrying out the work to the potential dangers to start with. Brims should also have properly planned and managed the work.
 
In mitigation both companies issued an early guilty plea and pointed to their previously unblemished safety records. Following the incident, Brims Construction implemented a ‘temporary works procedure’ and reviewed its risk-assessment procedures.
 
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Andy Collier

Such a derisory fine, where was the structural risk assessment? This could have easily been a fatality. Frankly the designers should have designed out this risk with a temporary works design. The Constructors have admitted they should have planned,. CPHSP and had a temporary works design in place that was also coordianted by a competent person. A larger fine may focus other minds to take heed.

Bob Kennedy

Never met a QS yet that allowed enough for TW? What was allowed for in the bill make up for this task?

Designers RA seriously flawed perhaps?

Who and how are any participants deemed competent?

CDM ignored accross the board yet again, and as stated by Andy Collier the fine is pityfull given the degree of failure by all concerned?

Does this really send out a cautious warning to others involved in similar activity? I doubt it.

Chris Handley

One must assume that the CDM-C is keeping his head down – why didn’t he follow up on the lack of design information, the absence of a temporary works plan, etc, etc. We know this was a major refurbishment so we must assume that one was appointed – not many major refurbs under 30 days, or is this another case of an unqualified appointee assuming he can do such a ‘simple’ job.