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HSE warns industry over basement skills risk

The Health and Safety Executive has issued a call for basement work to be properly planned after a contractor was fined yesterday following a house collapse in Brighton in 2015.

Hove Crown Court heard how builder Glen Peters (trading as Brow Builders) undermined the structural integrity of the house by digging out the basement.

He then failed to act on the advice of a structural engineer on how to remedy the situation, resulting in the gable wall partially collapsing and the ground floor collapsing into the basement.

An investigation by the HSE found that the property had bungeroosh walls, common to buildings in the Brighton area which were built in the mid-18th to 19th century. They are constructed with a mixture of rubble, timber, pebbles, stones and flint in a lime mix mortar set between shuttering. The make-up of these walls makes working on this type of building more challenging in terms of structural stability, meaning that those doing so must fully understand what they are dealing with.

HSE principal inspector Emma Stiles said “Basement work must be properly planned to ensure the structural integrity of the building throughout the construction work. When this type of work is done badly, workers and members of public are at significant risk of serious injury or death. In addition, we cannot underestimate the impact on the homeowners when their properties are extensively damaged.”

The investigation also found that Peters failed to report the incident to HSE as a dangerous occurrence in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013.

Peters was sentenced to five months imprisonment for count one and two months imprisonment for count two to run concurrently. He was also ordered to pay costs of £7,000.

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