A Leyton building firm has been fined after a labourer suffered multiple leg fractures in a fall when a newly-built first floor collapsed under the weight of concrete blocks weighing some 1.6 tonnes.
The 48 year-old casual labourer fell three metres to the ground at the site in Harpers Yard, Ruskin Road, Tottenham, on 14 September 2012, with the concrete blocks falling around him.
He sustained serious breaks in the lower leg bones and needed a major operation and a skin graft. He still cannot walk properly and is unable to return to work.
A colleague at ground level narrowly escaped being hit.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated the incident, found Cosmos Builders 88 Ltd had allowed the load capacity of the floor to be exceeded by seven times.
HSE prosecuted the building firm at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today (30 Oct) after finding a series of flaws in the construction work and numerous risks of falling from height faced by workers at the site.
The court heard that instead of laying three courses of blocks onto joist hangers, the first floor had been loaded with two piles, each of 88 concrete blocks weighing 1.6 tonnes. The labourer was piling up the blocks on the first floor and without the vital strengthening block work, the collapse was inevitable.
Cosmos Builders was aware of the correct construction method, as eight previous houses on site had been properly completed, but had gone ahead regardless to ‘keep the workers busy’.
HSE inspectors also found poor management had led to builders had been put in unnecessary danger by being told to work at height in areas where there were no safety measures in place. When questioned at the time, the company said they wanted to keep the workers busy while awaiting for scaffolders to arrive.
Cosmos Builders 88 Ltd, of Elm Park Road, Leyton, Waltham Forest, London, was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations and a separate breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Keith Levart said:
“Both offences were caused because the Cosmos Builders instructed workers to undertake tasks that they knew to be unsafe, but were unwilling to halt the work.
“In terms of the collapse, the firm cut corners by not carrying out the first floor work to the accepted standard and then allowed it to become grossly overloaded. As a result, a casual labourer has suffered an injury that may prevent him from returning to manual employment for a considerable time.
“Cosmos Builders 88 Ltd did not pay enough attention to the tasks being undertaken and failed to fully appreciate the risks involved. For this reason, it is hugely important that if something alters on site, such as materials being late, managers must take the responsibility to re-assess the risks and make sure there are no unintended – and possibly fatal – consequences.” In London last year (2012/13), provisional statistics show eight deaths were recorded in the construction sector, more than was recorded in any other region of Great Britain. The previous year, there were five fatalities and nearly 500 major injuries.
Notes to Editors:
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related 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
- Regulation 28(3) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: ‘No part of a structure shall be so loaded as to render it unsafe to any person’.
- Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: ‘Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury’.