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Court action after unsafe wall collapsed onto homeowner

Date:
9 April 2014

A Huddersfield builder has been prosecuted for safety breaches that led to a 61-year-old woman being badly injured when a wall collapsed in her garden.

The woman, from Waterloo, who does not wish to be named, suffered a broken jaw, a double fracture to her right ankle, plus cuts and bruises, when she was struck by the collapse of the two-metre, earth-retaining wall.

Kirklees Magistrates today (9 April) sentenced Lee Marsden, director of MWK  Group LLP,  after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The court was told an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the incident on 9 September 2011 found Mr Marsden failed to ensure the wall was properly built to withstand the pressures of an earth-retaining structure.

Mr Marsden had been involved first-hand in the work on site and directed the other workers on the build. During the construction, cracks began to appear in the wall. Work was temporarily halted but adequate precautions were not taken to ensure the safety of the residents in the house.

Magistrates fined Lee Marsden, of Dewhurst Road, Fartown, £140 and ordered him to pay £100 in costs. Mr Marsden, who represented himself, no longer works.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Dave Stewart said:

“Construction work should only be undertaken by those competent to do the job safely in accordance with a design that deals with the specific risks. Mr Marsden did not recognise the dangers posed by the structure he built, which was incapable of retaining the forces exerted upon it.

“He also failed to prevent access to the wall when cracks appeared, and it was recognised as unstable. The wall did collapse and, sadly, the householder was in the garden at the time and was seriously injured.

“Building contractors should engage competent engineers to advise on suitable designs for structures that will be subject to considerable loads. Inadequate design is a major cause of structural failure – the consequences of which can be serious and often fatal.

Advice on safety in construction is available free at http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction

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. Section 37 (1) of The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: “Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

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