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DIRECTOR FINED AFTER MASSIVE BUILDING COLLAPSE

Site beset with dangerous working practices, poor planning and management

Ethos Construction Solutions Limited and sole director Pritish Lad have been fined for multiple safety failings following the total collapse of two large properties in London. The buildings were “reduced to rubble” in January 2011 and neighbouring properties sustained serious structural damage.

Westminster Magistrates heard that Ethos Construction was principal contractor for the major project to renovate and refurbish a self-contained block of 14 buildings to create 56 new apartments and 13 commercial units.

Two properties collapsed on Sunday 23 January 2011 when there was, fortunately, no work activity taking place and nobody on site. The fallen rubble and debris took days to clear and the road was partially closed for several weeks whilst neighbouring buildings (some left in a ‘dangerous’ state) were checked and made safe.

HSE inspectors identified a number of safety failings including:

  • Assessment – failing to assess whether there was any evidence of a collapse risk;
  • Stability – allowing existing structures to become weak and unstable;
  • Temporary works – no TM plan for workers nor checks on whether workers were sufficiently trained and competent to undertake the work. The poor installation and positioning of building props; and
  • Loading – storage of large piles of bricks on several floors posing a potential over-loading risk.

HSE identified further issues elsewhere, including: an unsafe excavation up to 3m deep running the entire length of the site; risks concerning working at height; fire risks because flammable materials were poorly stored and controlled; failure to provide suitable emergency exits; insufficient fire detection and fire fighting equipment; and inadequate site security.

Magistrates were told there was overwhelming evidence of dangerous working practices, poor planning and management, for which the principal contractor and director were ultimately responsible as duty holders.

Shocking failings in terms of scale and severity

Ethos Construction Solutions Limited, of Chesham, Bucks, was fined a total of £14,000 and ordered to pay a further £9,000 in costs after pleading guilty to six separate breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and a single breach of Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Pritish Lad, 34, of Pinner, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to five separate breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the same Work at Height breach. He was fined a total of £9,500 with costs of £6,750.

After sentencing HSE Inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented:

“The development site was a scene of complete devastation following the collapse and had anyone been working at the time there could have been multiple fatalities and serious injuries.

It is also good fortune that the collapsed building didn’t come down in the direction of the busy Fulham Road, which could also have had tragic consequences.

Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but they are the only positive outcomes from the incident. The failings we identified at the site were shocking, both in terms of their scale and severity, and there were numerous risks elsewhere that could also have caused death or injury.

This prosecution should serve to remind directors of construction companies that it is unacceptable to simply assume workers in their care are protected because nobody has complained that standards are poor, or because they have experienced managers on the ground.

The onus is on them to ensure that all work is properly planned and managed, and that appropriate equipment, training and supervision is provided at all times. Ethos Construction Solutions and Pritish Lad fell well short of the required standards in this regard.”

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