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August 27, 2014

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Director in court after inspection reveals lack of basic welfare

HSE has said that the case of a building firm director, prosecuted after the health of workers was put at risk, should act as a warning to other companies and directors.

Roland Couzens, 67, from Macclesfield, was prosecuted by HSE after it emerged bricklayers, plasterers and a roofer could have suffered skin burns or lead poisoning as there was no hot water to wash off dust and contaminants, despite the need for hot water being highlighted in the company’s construction plan. 

Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard on 22 August that Mr Couzens, a director at CSC Construction Ltd, had been overseeing a project to refurbish a row of Victorian terraced houses on Ashton Old Road in Openshaw between May and September 2013.

The company, which has since gone into administration, had been stripping the houses bare before plastering them and fitting them with new kitchens and bathrooms.

HSE carried out an inspection of the site on 4 September 2013 and found that one of the vacant properties was being used for the site office and to provide welfare facilities for the workers. However, there was no hot or warm water supply in either the kitchen or bathroom.

The court was told that bricklayers and plasterers were put at risk of suffering skin burns as they were working with cement and plaster but could not use hot water to clean themselves. A roofer working with lead could also have suffered lead poisoning from residues on his skin.

Mr Couzens admitted to visiting the site several times a week during the project but failing to provide a hot water supply until after the HSE inspection.

Roland Couzens, of Sugar Lane in Rushton Spencer, near Macclesfield, was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £3,102 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Matt Greenly, said: “There were around a dozen people working on the site every day so it’s astonishing that they were without hot water for more than three months. Mr Couzens was brought in to oversee the project, including the health and safety of workers, but he failed to ensure this basic legal requirement was met.

“The houses were taken back to brick before being completely renovated so there were large amounts of dust, as well as the risk of workers suffering skin burns or lead poisoning from the components in the building materials.

“This case should act as a warning to companies and directors that we will not hesitate to prosecute if they do not act to ensure the health and safety of their employees.”

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