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June 30, 2010

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Unsupported pit put residents lives at risk

A builder appeared in court after he ignored three HSE enforcement notices ordering him to secure and prevent access to an excavation site at a residential property in Oldham.

Mahmood Khokhar, 29, had dug a 1.8-metre-deep pit as part of extension work at a house owned by his sister in Denmark Street, Chadderton. Oldham Council’s building control team notified the HSE that the pit had not been secured to stop it from collapsing. There was also no fencing around the garden or the pit to prevent people from falling in.

HSE inspectors visited the site on 1 June 2009 and issued a Prohibition Notice to stop work inside the pit until it was supported. Two Improvement Notices were also issued, which required Khokhar to fence of the area, and to install supports to the excavation.

The deadline for compliance with the notices was 22 June 2009, but when inspectors returned to the site a few days after the date had passed they found that none of the changes had been made. Khokhar said this was because the fencing he had bought had been stolen and he was waiting for new fencing panels to be delivered. He was granted an extension on the notices until 1 July 2009, but also failed to meet this deadline, after which the HSE decided to bring charges against him.

HSE inspector Laura Moran said: “Mr Khokhar ignored the warnings and advice we gave him about the safety of the site. There was a well-used path and an alley along the side and back of the property, so there were plenty of passers-by.

“On one visit, I spotted a child’s ball in the bottom of the pit. I dread to think what could have happened if they’d tried to fetch it, as the sides of the trench were starting to collapse.”

Khokhar appeared at Trafford magistrates’ court on 24 June and pleaded guilty to two breaches of s33(1)(g) of the HSWA 1974 for failing to comply with Improvement Notices. He was fined £2000 and ordered to pay £1725 in costs.

In mitigation, he told the court that he had no previous convictions and entered an early guilty plea. He has subsequently put fencing around the garden and the trench has been filled in, as the extension was never built.

Inspector Moran added: “When I revisited the property after the deadline had passed, the trench was still unstable and there was no fencing. I gave him another six days to make improvements but he did nothing. We therefore had no choice but to prosecute.

“Developers should take enforcement notices seriously and act on them. If they fail to do so then they’re putting lives in danger.”

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14 years ago

Razor – you need to take a good hard look in the mirror. This guy had plenty of chances to act and did nothing. Someone tried to nick his fence??? – Really ! I’m sorry but that sounds incredibly hard to believe!

14 years ago

Mr Khokhar was clearly cutting corners to keep down costs down. The HSE gave him more than enough time to comply and there is no evidence that he would have taken any steps to comply with the Notices unless he was prosecuted. He’s lucky that he wasn’t seriously injured. Good to see an LA working closely with the HSE to help protect others.

14 years ago

Give me a break talk about over-dramatizing the situation. So the HSE inspector wants us to think of the children! How the heck does she even know that a kid kicked the ball in the pit??? The man tried to comply but someone nicked his fence it’s not like he didn’t try to act on his mistake.