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Almost half of London’s domestic basement schemes fail checks

The health and Safety Executive (HSE) has said that dangerous practices in the domestic basement construction sector is increasing.

One in two domestic basement schemes inspected in a recent safety crackdown failed to meet standards, compared to one in three in a similar initiative in 2014..

HSE inspectors visited 127 sites across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and parts of Westminster over two days in March and enforcement action was taken at 63 locations.

The HSE said that 44 prohibition notices were also served to order an immediate stop to dangerous practices and 12 improvement notices were also handed down. At two projects, conditions were so dangerous that inspectors were forced to close the sites.

More than two thirds of the prohibition notices served dealt with the risk of workers falling from height, either into unguarded excavations or through unprotected floor openings, as well as unshored excavations. 

“These enforcement figures reflect the rapidly-increasing number of companies entering the basement industry to meet the current high demand for basement living space in London,” said HSE lead inspector for the Construction Division in the City and South West London James Hickman. “Those new to basement construction work are often unaware of the risks associated with the technically challenging nature of the work or of the standards required to ensure the safety of their workforce.

“The overall picture is similar to other targeted inspections of basement work in London where we identified the same kind of problems relating to unsafe work at height and excavations, and poor welfare facilities.

“That suggests the message isn’t getting through, or that there is complacency towards health and safety across this sector of the construction industry. But that is only partly the case.

“As well as serious safety contraventions, we also found examples of better standards, often at sites managed by companies who are known to HSE, some of whom have previously received enforcement notices requiring improvements to be made.

“It illustrates that lessons have been learned, and we hope the latest failings that required action will have a similar impact with contractors new to the basement industry.”

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