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Companies prosecuted after roof collapsed on worker

Date:
23 May 2013

Two West Midlands companies have been fined for safety failings after the six-tonne roof of a timber-framed classroom collapsed on a worker, leaving him seriously injured.

Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard yesterday that CMR Demolitions Ltd of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, and Thomas Vale Construction PLC of Stourport-on-Severn, Worcester, failed to put in place temporary support arrangements during the demolition of the timber-framed classrooms at the former Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College site at Fenton.

The injured man, who does not wish to be named, was knocked unconscious when he was struck by part of the roof when the building collapsed without warning. He suffered fractured ribs, a broken shoulder bone, a broken nose, several shattered teeth and swelling to his head.

Two other workers were caught under the collapsed building but managed to free themselves and were uninjured.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident on 11 November 2011 found the extensive soft-stripping of the walls by sub-contractor CMR Demolitions Ltd had significantly reduced their load-bearing capacity. A combination of having no support in place to hold up the roof, and strong winds, resulted in the collapse.

CMR Demolitions Ltd did not obtain information on how the timber-framed classrooms had been originally constructed and did not seek the opinion of a structural engineer during the work.

The building had been left in a stripped state overnight but no check was made on the structure before workers entered it the next day. Rotting timbers within the base of the timber frame were not spotted and addressed. The classroom could have been mechanically pushed over without putting any staff at risk.

Principal contractor Thomas Vale Construction PLC failed to ensure that CMR Demolitions Ltd had provided a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the soft strip and demolition work of the classroom. It also failed to manage and monitor this demolition activity of CMR Demolitions Ltd or ensure they had consulted a structural expert.

Thomas Vale Construction PLC failed to require a less dangerous approach to the demolition work.

CMR Demolitions Ltd was fined a total of £9,900 and ordered to pay £6,117 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching both the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Thomas Vale Construction PLC pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £6,600 with £6,117 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said:

"CMR Demolitions Ltd made serious errors and the collapse occurred through a lack of planning and understanding of the structural stability of the classrooms.

"The company allowed their staff to work in extremely dangerous conditions. Had they employed a structural engineer this incident could have been avoided.

"As a result of these failures, a worker was seriously injured. The implications of a six-tonne, timber-framed roof collapsing onto people are obvious to all and this incident could easily have resulted in multiple fatalities.

"Thomas Vale Construction PLC failed to plan, manage and monitor the demolition work on the classrooms so it was carried out without risks to health or safety.

"The firm did not sufficiently challenge CMR Demolitions Ltd on their classroom work methods and were complicit in the method of work that took place."

For more information about the Health and Safety Executive’s work with the construction industry, go to www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/construction

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: "Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a) the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b) the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking.
  3. The full text for Regulation 22(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 can be found at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/320/made
  4. Regulation 28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states all practicable steps shall be taken, where necessary to prevent danger to any person, to ensure that any new or existing structure or any part of such structure which may become unstable or in a temporary state of weakness or instability due to the carrying out of construction work, does not collapse."

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