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February 25, 2010

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Construction site presented multiple fall risks

A property developer has been found guilty of a number of safety failings that endangered the lives of workers on a construction site in Hull.

HQ Leisure Ltd was developing a row of four-storey terrace buildings into 28 apartments. The HSE was contacted by a local authority inspector, who noticed a number of fall risks during a routine visit of the site.

The HSE visited the site on 2 October 2007 and confirmed a number of safety problems, which could have caused serious injuries to workers. The inspection noted that the rear scaffolding was unstable and had not been secured to the building, plus unsuitable ladders were being used to access the upper floor. The rear part of the site had been demolished and no edge protection had been put in place to prevent falls in the exposed parts of the building.

Other problems on the site included:

€ᄁ    an insufficient number of boards were being used on the roof to prevent workers from falling through the gaps between ceiling joists, and the boards were loose;
€ᄁ    debris was being thrown from a 15-metre-high platform into an area below where other workers operating; and
€ᄁ    there were no toilets and inadequate washing facilities.

The HSE issued a Prohibition Notice on the same day as the inspection, which ordered work at the site to cease until the risks were properly addressed and suitable management systems were in place. HSE inspector Stephen Hargreaves said: “Many people are killed on construction sites every year, and suitable planning and risk management is vital to prevent unnecessary risk.

“That clearly didn’t happen on this occasion and there is a number of simple, practical measures that could and should have been taken by HQ Leisure.”

The company entered voluntary liquidation a few days before the case was due to be heard in court. There were no representatives from the firm, or the liquidators, when the trial took place at Hull Magistrates’ Court on 23 February. The firm was found guilty in its absence to breaching:

€ᄁ    s3(2) of the HSWA 1974;
€ᄁ    reg. 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations (WAHR) 2005, for not taking precautions to prevent falls;
€ᄁ    reg. 8(b) of the WAHR 2005, for not using a safe working platform;
€ᄁ    reg. 10(3) of the WAHR 2005, for failing to protect workers from falling objects;
€ᄁ    reg. 22(1)(c) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM) 2007, for failing to provide adequate welfare facilities; and
€ᄁ    reg. 23(1) of the CDM Regulations 2007, for failing to implement a construction phase plan.

The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs.

In mitigation, the court heard that the firm had complied with the terms of the Prohibition Notice.

Summing up the case, inspector Hargreaves said: “HQ Leisure blatantly disregarded the importance of a safe working site, leaving their workers at risk of serious injury, or even death.

“Property developers must be aware of their duties towards the health and safety of their workers, and HSE will continue to take action where we find significant risks to workers.”

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