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Civil engineering firm in court for unsafe work at height

Date:
9 October 2014

A Covent Garden-based civil engineering contractor has been prosecuted for safety failings after an inspection of a Mayfair construction site identified multiple work-at-height risks.

Peter Lind and Co (Central Region) Limited appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court yesterday (8 October) following the visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to a project on Queen Street on 23 January this year.

The court heard that concerns were first raised about safety standards at the site, where two five-storey regency houses were being extensively over-hauled, by an anonymous complainant in December 2013.

When a HSE inspector visited some eight weeks later he uncovered a catalogue of issues, including:

  • Missing or inadequate edge protection in several locations – exposing workers to potential falls of between three and eight metres.
  • Unsafe temporary ladders in place of a staircase that been removed.
  • Missing toe boards and other edge protection on several tower scaffolds.
  • Materials and equipment, including a heavy fire extinguisher, were left on edges where it was liable to fall and cause injury.

The failings mirrored those raised by the original complainant, meaning nothing had changed in the intervening period to protect workers. They were exposed to unnecessary risk for at least two months.

HSE immediately served a Prohibition Notice requiring urgent improvements in relation to work at height. Two improvement notices were also served that needed action.

The court was told that although nobody was injured at the site, the potential for a serious or potentially fatal fall was very real. HSE concluded that the work at height was poorly assessed, managed and monitored, and fell well short of the required legal standards.

Magistrates heard that HSE inspectors had also identified concerns at three other sites managed by the company in 2012 and 2013, and that in each instance enforcement notices or written warnings had to be served.

Peter Lind and Co (Central Region) Limited was fined a total of £11,500 and ordered to pay £1,369 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented:

“We uncovered an almost systematic failing in regards to work at height at the Mayfair site, and the extent of the risk this created was substantial. There were numerous examples where falls could have occurred, and the consequences could have been devastating.

“Peter Lind and Co is guilty of failing to pay enough attention to performance at the site. There were numerous issues that could and should have been identified and immediately addressed.

“Falls from height remain the biggest single cause of death and serious injury in the construction industry, and it is vital that developers and principal contractors work within the law and meet the required standards at all times.”

Further information on working safely at height can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/falls

Notes to Editors:

  1. 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
  2. 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.”
  3. Regulation 10(1) states: “Every employer shall, where necessary to prevent injury to any person, take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, the fall of any material or object.”

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