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UNSTABLE STRUCTURE COLLAPSED ON DEMOLITION TEAM

Failure to properly assess and plan demolition work caused injury

H Cope and Sons (Demolition) Ltd, a family-run demolition firm, has been prosecuted after a worker was instructed to work in a partly-demolished moments before the ceiling collapsed in May 2010. Grimsby Magistrates heard that labourer Daniel Cope, aged 36, was part of the team demolishing the Old Fish House in Grimsby Docks. 

An excavator was used demolish asbestos-containing roof sheets. Daniel and a fellow worker were then instructed by the site supervisor to remove the asbestos debris so as to reduce contamination of the rest of the rubble.

The edge of the ceiling collapsed striking Mr Cope on the head causing him to fall to the ground. He fractured his knee and suffered severe bruising to his neck and shoulder. His colleague escaped unhurt.

HSE investigators found that the company were aware that joists supporting the ceiling were rotten and the asbestos sheets had not been removed before demolition as it was too dangerous to walk on the floor to gain access. This had not been considered before sending the workers in to retrieve fallen materials.

Demolition requires careful assessment of structures

H. Cope and Sons (Demolition) Ltd of Grimsby pleaded guilty and were fined £7,500 with £5,000 towards prosecution costs for breaching the CDM Regulations 2007 – Regulation 29 requiring that demolition be planned and carried out in such a manner as to prevent danger with the arrangements for carrying out the work recorded in writing before the work begins.

Principal HSE Inspector Dave Redman said:

“Sending two workers into a partially demolished building to sort roofing material brought down by machine very nearly resulted in a fatal incident. There was a large dent and crack in Daniel’s hard hat afterwards – a stark indication of how close he came to severe injury. As it is he suffered a badly broken knee and extensive bruising. His co-worker was fortunate not to have been injured by this collapse.

Demolition is a dangerous activity that requires careful planning to assess the building structure to ensure a safe way of bringing it down. It’s common practice in the industry to prevent anyone entering a building under demolition because of the potential instability and falling debris. This firm disregarded recognised procedures and exposed workers to danger.”

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