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June 29, 2010

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Firm’s work-at-height procedures were simply not good enough

A property development company has been fined £6600 after a member of the public notified the HSE that the firm was putting workers at risk during a roof demolition at a site in Wolverhampton.

Alexson Homes Ltd had purchased a former children’s home in Coalpit Lane, Brereton, West Midlands, and was turning the site into apartments. On 8 February, The HSE received a tip-off that there were no measures in place to prevent workers at the site from falling from the roof of the main building, which was some five metres from the ground.

HSE inspectors visited the site on the same day and found workers removing tiles from the roof. The workmen were accessing the roof via an internal ladder and there was no scaffolding or edge protection in place to prevent falls. The men also put other people on site at risk by dropping materials off the side of the roof in an uncontrolled manner.
The firm was issued with a Prohibition Notice to stop work inside the main building until a safe method for working at height was introduced.

HSE inspector Martin Overstall said: “Alexson Homes was extremely lucky that no one was injured when working in such unsafe conditions. Building firms must plan a safe method of working, before starting to work on a site. They must put the right precautions in place to protect their workers and others in what can be a highly dangerous industry. All too often, HSE inspectors are called out to serious or fatal incidents in roof work, where the precautions are minimal or absent – it is simply not good enough.”

Alexson Homes appeared at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on 24 June and pleaded guilty to breaching regs. 6(3) and 10(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £900 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it had sent one of its directors on a site-management competency course. The court also heard that the company had fully complied with the Prohibition Notice and installed a scaffold on the roof before re-starting work.

The company also said that it had limited financial means, as it has yet to sell one of the properties at the site. It asked the court to consider its financial position and its previously clean safety record when deciding the severity of the penalty.

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13 years ago

I realise no one was injured but that was just sheer good fortune. This incident should have led to a much higher fine.

13 years ago

This method of work was an absolute disgrace. Thank god that an eagle-eyed member of the public spotted it and had the sense to contact the HSE.

13 years ago

I don’t agree Brad. We have seen firms fined much less for fatalities. I think the level of fine is about right. But I do wish that the courts were more consistent how much they fine firms. I find it ridiculous that a court can fine a £2k for a fatality and a firm of the same size can receive a fine treble that size when nobody has been injured.