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CONTRACTORS SHARE BLAME FOR BUILDING BLUNDER

PC and demolition firm fined over unplanned collapse

Thomas Vale Construction PLC and CMR Demolitions Ltd have been fined after the six-tonne roof of a timber-framed classroom collapsed on a worker, leaving him seriously injured in November 2011

Stafford Magistrates heard (23rd May) that the contractors failed to put in place temporary support arrangements during the demolition of the timber-framed classrooms at the former Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College.

The injured man was knocked unconscious when he was struck by part of the roof when the building collapsed without warning. He suffered fractured ribs, a broken shoulder bone, a broken nose, several shattered teeth and swelling to his head.

Two other workers were caught under the collapsed building but managed to free themselves and were uninjured.

HSE investigators found that extensive soft-stripping of the walls significantly reduced their load-bearing capacity. A combination of having no support in place to hold up the roof, and strong winds, resulted in the collapse.

CMR Demolitions Ltd did not obtain information on how the timber-framed classrooms had been originally constructed and did not seek the opinion of a structural engineer during the work.

The building had been left in a stripped state overnight but no check was made on the structure before workers entered it the next day. Rotting timbers within the base of the timber frame were not spotted and addressed.

The structure could have been demolished mechanically without putting any staff at risk.

PC did not “sufficiently challenge” contractor

Principal contractor Thomas Vale Construction PLC failed to:

  • ensure CMR Demolitions Ltd provided a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the soft strip and demolition work of the classroom;
  • manage and monitor the demolition activity or ensure structural expert was consulted; and
  • require a less dangerous approach to the demolition work.

CMR Demolitions Ltd was fined a total of £9,900 and ordered to pay £6,117 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching both the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Thomas Vale Construction PLC pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £6,600 with £6,117 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said:

“CMR Demolitions Ltd made serious errors and the collapse occurred through a lack of planning and understanding of the structural stability of the classrooms. The company allowed their staff to work in extremely dangerous conditions. Had they employed a structural engineer this incident could have been avoided.

As a result of these failures, a worker was seriously injured. The implications of a six-tonne, timber-framed roof collapsing onto people are obvious to all and this incident could easily have resulted in multiple fatalities.

Thomas Vale Construction PLC failed to plan, manage and monitor the demolition work on the classrooms so it was carried out without risks to health or safety. The firm did not sufficiently challenge CMR Demolitions Ltd on their classroom work methods and were complicit in the method of work that took place.”

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