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FLOOR COLLAPSE TRIGGERED BY MISSING BLOCKS

Builder ‘corner cutting’ produced grossly overloaded structure

Cosmos Builders 88 Ltd has been fined after a labourer (aged 48) suffered multiple leg fractures when he fall 3m as a newly-built first floor collapsed under the weight of concrete blocks on a London site in September 2012.

He needed a major operation and skin graft and remains unable to walk properly or return to work. A colleague at ground level narrowly escaped being struck.

Westminster Magistrates heard (30 Oct) that HSE investigators found a “series of flaws in the construction work and numerous risks of falling from height faced by workers at the site”.

The first floor was being loaded with two stacks of 88 concrete blocks weighing 1.6 tonnes. However, the floor lacked essential strengthening block work (i.e. three courses of blocks laid on the joist hangers) making collapse “inevitable”.

The company was aware of the correct construction method yet proceeded regardless to ‘keep the workers busy’.

HSE inspectors also found that workmen were told to work at height in areas where no safety measures wrre in place. Again, this was because the company said it wanted to keep the workers busy while awaiting for scaffolders to arrive.

Tasks known to be unsafe but firm unwilling to halt work

Cosmos Builders 88 Ltd, of  Waltham Forest, London, was fined a total of £6,000 and ordered to pay £4,000 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Work at Height Regulations and a separate breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.

  • Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: ‘Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury’.
  • Regulation 28(3) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: ‘No part of a structure shall be so loaded as to render it unsafe to any person’.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Keith Levart said:

“Both offences were caused because the Cosmos Builders instructed workers to undertake tasks that they knew to be unsafe, but were unwilling to halt the work.

In terms of the collapse, the firm cut corners by not carrying out the first floor work to the accepted standard and then allowed it to become grossly overloaded. As a result, a casual labourer has suffered an injury that may prevent him from returning to manual employment for a considerable time.

Cosmos Builders 88 Ltd did not pay enough attention to the tasks being undertaken and failed to fully appreciate the risks involved. For this reason, it is hugely important that if something alters on site, such as materials being late, managers must take the responsibility to re-assess the risks and make sure there are no unintended – and possibly fatal – consequences.”

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