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    ‘Dickensian’ welfare conditions land errant contractor in court

    RNT Developments and Construction Ltd has been prosecuted after refurbishment work took place on a Grade 2 listed building in Preston for some seven weeks without toilets or running water.

    Roofers, damp treatment experts, electricians, joiners and plasters worked on the nineteenth century Harris Institute without basic welfare facilities.

    Preston Magistrates heard the refurbishment work started in 3 January 2013. A dry rot treatment subcontractor filled six skips with plaster from the walls whilst other contractors removed rotten timbers and floor boards in dusty conditions.

    Workers had to use wet wipes and paper towels to clean themselves, and leave the site to find toilets elsewhere in the city. The three-storey building had been empty for two years and the water supply had been turned off, which meant the existing toilets could not be used.

    The temperature inside the building was also bitterly cold.

    Working conditions were archaic and Victorian

    RNT Developments and Construction Ltd, of Sheldrake Road in Broadheath, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 on 16 October 2013.

    Regulation 13(7) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “Every contractor shall ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the requirements of Schedule 2 (Welfare Facilities) are complied with throughout the construction phase in respect of any person at work who is under his control.”

    Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Stuart Kitchingman said:

    “It would have been easy for RNT to reinstate the existing welfare facilities in the building, but instead the firm allowed work to be carried out in grimy and dusty conditions for nearly seven weeks without access to the most basic facilities.

    It’s totally unacceptable in the twenty-first century to find Dickensian-like conditions. In fact, it’s a legal requirement that workers aren’t treated in this way.

    The working conditions were archaic – more like they would have been when the building was first erected in Victorian times – and will no longer be tolerated in the 21st Century.

    RNT should have made sure there were welfare facilities on the site before it allowed the refurbishment project to start. Instead, workers had to face needlessly unpleasant conditions over several weeks.”

    The inspection of the RNT site was carried out during a month-long national initiative earlier this year in which one in five construction sites were served with enforcement notices after failing health and safety checks.

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