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February 4, 2013

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Demolition firm put workers’ lives at risk

The HSE uncovered a number of safety failings at a demolition site in Liverpool after receiving a tip-off from a member of the public.

On 6 August 2012, the HSE visited a site in Blundell Street where Total Demolition UK was demolishing an old office block. The Executive received a complaint that day from a neighbouring construction firm relating to unsafe work practices being carried out on the demolition site.

When HSE inspector Jacqueline Western arrived at the site she saw most of the building above the second floor had already been demolished. Two workers were standing close to the edge of the second floor where the wall had been removed, and were throwing waste to the ground below. She watched them clamber over rubble without any safety measures in place to stop them falling. They potentially could have fallen five metres to the ground and landed on the rubble.

The HSE issued an immediate Prohibition Notice to the firm, which required work to stop until edge protection was put in place and slip and trip hazards were removed.

Inspector Western told SHP the company had already demolished three warehouses at the site by using machinery, but they had decided to demolish the office block by hand. She explained that they should have either used machinery to finish the job, or installed handrails around the open edges if they intended to work by hand.

“When I arrived at the site, it was immediately obvious that workers were in danger of being seriously injured if they fell from the building,” said inspector Western. “Two of the employees were throwing waste materials from the edge of the second floor so could easily have fallen if they had tripped over the rubble.

“The company installed a handrail around the open edge of the building after receiving the Prohibition Notice, but if that handrail had been in place at the time of my visit then lives would not have been put at risk.”

Total Demolition UK appeared at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on 31 January and pleaded guilty to breaching reg.6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £2968 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it contracted a scaffold company to install fixed guardrails the same day that the HSE visited the site. It accepted the method of work was unsafe and entered an early guilty plea. The company has no previous convictions.

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