A Kent construction company and its managing director have been prosecuted after both displayed a ‘shocking disregard’ for workers’ safety at a demolition site in Surrey.
The workers at the site were exposed to ‘appalling risks’ of falling from an unprotected roof and from the presence of dangerous asbestos material.
Conditions at the site in Chobham Road, Woking, were spotted by a passing Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, who immediately served a prohibition notice halting the work going on at roof level.
An investigation followed and a prosecution brought against Daniel Lautier and his firm, ICG Construction Management Services Ltd, both of Sevenoaks in Kent, for numerous safety breaches.
Redhill Magistrates were (9 Dec) told that the HSE inspector had been driving past on 5 June 2014 when he saw the two-storey, part-demolished house. On top of it, standing at the edges of where a pitched room had been, were three workers. There was no edge protection or fall prevention measures in place despite the dangers to the men of a six to seven metres’ fall.
Roof tiles and masonry had been thrown from the structure as it was being demolished. HSE served a further prohibition notice to ensure that an asbestos survey was carried out prior to any further demolition taking place.
Asbestos was found on site and had it not been removed could have caused serious long term and irreversible ill health to on-site workers and passers by who may have been exposed the dust from its demolition. HSE also required a demolition plan to be drawn up, and for workers to halt the uncontrolled and unsafe throwing of building materials to ground level.
HSE’s investigation found a catalogue of failures on the part of Mr Lautier and ICG Construction Services: –
- there was no proper system of work drawn up for the demolition of the property, which belonged to Mr Lautier;
- men were working at a dangerous height with no safety measures to protect them from falls;
- demolition was ad-hoc and work bore little resemblance to accepted practice in the industry;
- there was inadequate supervision and planning;
- welfare facilities on site at one point were non-existent.
Daniel Lautier of Harrison Way, Sevenoaks, Kent, admitted two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and his firm, ICG Construction Services, pleaded guilty to one breach of the same Act and a further breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Lautier was fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,044. No separate penalty was imposed for his company.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Russell Beckett, who investigated, said:
“The disregard for health and safety shown by Daniel Lautier and ICG was shocking, and exposed workers and others to appalling risks.
“The management of health and safety was non-existent even at the most basic level. There were so many failures on site. Many were obvious but all contributed to making the site one of most inadequate and unprofessional I have ever seen.
“Demolition of a property requires planning and that includes a survey to establish whether asbestos is present. The demolition industry has vastly improved its health and safety record but Mr Lautier decided to cut corners and to try to do it himself. If this demolition had been simply carried out using an excavator machine then there would have been very few risks involved.”
For information and advice on safe demolition practices, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/demolition.htm
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
Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states: “An employer shall not undertake work in demolition, maintenance, or any other work which exposes or is liable to expose his employees to asbestos in respect of any premises unless either he has carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos, what type of asbestos, contained in what material and in what condition is present or is liable to be present in those premises; or (b)if there is doubt as to whether asbestos is present in those premises he assumes that asbestos is present, and that it is not chrysotile alone, and observes the applicable provisions of these Regulations.”
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.”
HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk.