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Contractor in court after section of roof fell on worker

Date:
19 May 2015

An Ayrshire construction contractor has been fined for serious safety failings after part of a roof fell on a worker during demolition.

Peter Mullen, then 68, suffered severe injuries in the incident on 21 February 2013 as he helped demolish a chalet at Turnberry Holiday Park in Girvan.

Ayrshire Sheriff Court was told yesterday (18 May) that Mr Mullen, an employee of John Gordon Black, trading as J B Black Construction Services, was tasked with two other employees to demolish a single story timber framed chalet which had been the park’s former reception.

On the day of the incident, under the instruction of John Gordon Black, Peter Mullen along with two colleagues started demolishing the chalet. They used hand tools and did not have or use any props or supports for the task. They removed the doors and windows as well as a wall at the rear of the chalet.

Later that day Peter Mullen was in front of the chalet, picking up waste from the ground and taking it to a skip while his colleagues were standing nearby. As Mr Mullen walked towards the skip, the front roof section of the chalet fell suddenly forward over the remaining part of the front wall of the chalet, which also collapsed beneath it. The two colleagues ran to the rear of the building and jumped out of the way of the collapsing roof, which had slid forward 2.5 metres. The collapsed roof section, weighing around 600kg, came to rest on top of Mr Mullen trapping him there.

Several people including tree fellers who were on site came to help lift the roof off Mr Mullen who was taken to hospital with ten broken ribs, a broken left shoulder blade, a collapsed lung, a tear in his spleen and severely bruised kidneys. He spent four months in hospital and still suffers pain as a result of his injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that John Gordon Black had failed to assess the risk of the chalet having an unplanned structural collapse before the demolition work began and subsequently failed to plan the work properly.

There was also no written arrangement for carrying out the demolition work, as required under Regulation 29 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for this type of work and there was no exclusion zone around the demolition area meaning the workers had to work within the footprint of the building and on top of the roof as they were demolishing it, clearly exposing them to risks to their safety.

The partially collapsed chalet was ultimately demolished using a long reach excavator, without the need to have workers or others exposed to risk during the demolition.

John Gordon Black, trading as J B Black Construction Services, of Bairdsmill, Crosshill, Maybole, was fined £2,660 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Following the case, HSE inspector Moira Jennings said:

“This was an entirely avoidable incident. The risks associated with demolition activity are well known and long standing. Demolition, dismantling and structural alteration are high risk activities which require careful planning and execution by contractors who are competent in the full range of demolition techniques.

“In this case, demolition using hand tools meant workers were unnecessarily exposed to the risk of structural collapse. It would have been safer to use a long reach excavator, which was subsequently brought in to complete the demolition following the incident.

“Ultimately, the system of work planned by John Gordon Black was unsafe, resulting in severe injuries which still affect Mr Mullen today.”

For more information about safe demolition visit: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/demolition.htm

Notes to Editors:

1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. In Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.

3. 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.”

4. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk/

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