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May 28, 2012

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Shopworkers cheat death during building collapse

A property developer ignored a Prohibition Notice by continuing to demolish an unstable building, which subsequently collapsed and sent tonnes of rubble through the roof of a neighbouring shop.

Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard Ghulam Rasul was demolishing a former industrial premises between Stoke Street and Effingham Road in the city, as part of a redevelopment project.

In April 2008, the HSE visited the site and issued a Prohibition Notice to stop the demolition work, as no measures were in place to ensure that the building was stable.

Rasul, 73, re-started the work in late 2010 without having taken any steps to comply with the notice. The work weakened the building further and increased the potential for it to collapse.

On 4 February last year, the gable end of the building collapsed, which caused ten tonnes of bricks and rubble to crash through the roof of the fishing-tackle shop next door. The shop was open for business and the debris narrowly missed two shopworkers.

South Yorkshire Police closed Effingham Road, as they were concerned the remainder of the building would collapse across the road and pavement. A team from Sheffield City Council’s dangerous structures unit then arranged for it to be safely demolished.

HSE inspector Dave Bradley said the incident could easily have been avoided if temporary supports had been designed to stabalise the building. He said: “Had Rasul employed a competent engineer, temporary supports could have been designed and installed to prevent a premature collapse of the structure. He had been warned of the dangers, advised on what to do, and yet he recklessly ignored this advice and, by doing so, put the lives of many people at risk.”

Rasul appeared in court on 25 May and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, for failing to stabilise the building, and s33(1)(g) of the HSWA 1974 for contravening an enforcement notice. He was fined a total of £6000 and ordered to pay £2418 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, inspector Bradley added: “This was an extremely serious incident, with the potential to kill several people in the shop, as well as pedestrians and people in cars on Effingham Road at the time. The fact that no one was injured was pure good fortune. Demolition is a high-risk activity that needs to be carefully planned from start to finish.”

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