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MULTIPLE FIRE AND SAFETY ISSUES AIRED IN COURT

Refurb contractor failed to take action following repeated HSE warnings

Peak Construction (London) Ltd has been fined for putting the lives of employees and local residents at risk after repeatedly ignoring safety warnings on a redevelopment project in Bristol city centre.

The company was converting the upper floors of business premises to residential accommodation and adding two timber framed floors on top of the building. HSE inspectors visited the project six times between August and October 2011 following concerns raised by members of the public about dangerous working practices. 

On each occasion inspectors found failings relating to unsafe work at height, including the use of a MEWP without worker harnesses, lack of edge protection to prevent falls, poorly constructed scaffolding and risks with materials falling from the roof.

Inspectors also identified multiple fire risks. These included the absence of: fire plan; means of raising an alarm; fire extinguishers; marked emergency escape routes. An open flame gas torch was also found used in the timber roof with no fire precautions in place.

Seven Prohibition Notices were served ordering work to stop immediately but some dangerous practices continued.

Leadership failures led to a high risk of serious injuries

Peak Construction (London) Ltd, of Takeley in Essex pleaded guilty (14 Nov) to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Regulation 38 of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for failing to make satisfactory safe working arrangements, and for allowing dangerous practices to continue.

The company was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £4,629 in costs. After the hearing HSE Inspector Steve Frain said:

“Right from the start of the job, the company was warned about its health and safety performance and individual directors were made aware of the initial failings we identified at the site.

The number of follow-up inspections and interventions we made in this case went far beyond what would normally be required. The same risks were clearly pointed out at each inspection, yet still the company failed to take sufficient action.

Falls from height are the single most significant cause of death or serious injury within the construction industry and timber frame construction methods pose a greatly increased fire safety risk that requires high standards of management and control throughout a project.

Although there was no fire on this occasion, a fire on this site carried a high risk of serious injury to the workforce and members of the public. These are not minor technical breaches of the law. They show a failure of leadership across the company which led to a high risk of significant injuries.”

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