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HSE prosecutes basement contractor

A contractor carrying out refurbishment and basement extension work was prosecuted after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified a series of serious safety breaches during inspections.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that PVAD was the contractor controlling work at a construction site at on Montholme Road in London when it was inspected by the HSE in March 2017.

The inspection found that numerous areas of the site had no edge protection to prevent falls, including where workers could fall 4m into the basement from the site entrance area.

Unsafe ”homemade” ramps were being used to allow access to some parts of the site.

A prohibition notice was served on PVAD, but further inspections in April and May 2017 found new work at height issues that were so serious that all work had to be halted on both occasions until the site was made safe. An improvement notice was also served requiring PVAD concerning the inadequate welfare facilities.

The company breached the notice as the improvements made were insufficient.

The HSE had previously inspected other PVAD sites several times in 2015 and 2016. As a result, the company had been served with three improvement notices relating to welfare facilities and two formal letters highlighting work at height risks and giving advice.

PVAD pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, Regulation 15(11) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM) and Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £51,334 and ordered to pay £1,525.50 in costs.

HSE inspector Adam Thompson commented after Wednesday’s hearing: “After the March 2017 inspection PVAD Limited were provided with clear written advice to help them make improvements. They failed to take note of this and continued to rely on a site manager with no formal health and safety training.

“On the three occasions the site was visited the workers were at such risk of falling that all work had to halt. It was just good fortune that no one was killed or seriously injured at the site”.

The HSE also found that the welfare facilities fell far below the legally required standard, with the WC having no cistern to allow flushing and the washing arrangements on site consisting of a cold water outdoor tap and bucket, with no soap or towel.

Thompson added: “The standards were particularly inexcusable as the company had received clear warnings in the past. It speaks volumes that, even after being issued with three welfare improvement notices at other sites, they provided their workers at the new site with a non-flushing WC and an outside cold water tap and a bucket as washing facilities”.

Earlier this week the HSE issued a call for basement work to be properly planned after a contractor was fined following a house collapse. 

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