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POOR DESIGN CAUSED WALL COLLAPSE ON HOMEOWNER

Builder lacked competence to recognise structural safety risk

A small builder has been prosecuted for safety breaches that led to a 61-year-old woman being badly injured when a wall collapsed in her garden in September 2011.

The woman suffered a broken jaw, a double fracture to her right ankle, plus cuts and bruises, when she was struck by the collapse of the 2m earth-retaining wall.

Kirklees Magistrates heard (9 April) sentenced Lee Marsden, director of MWK Group LLP, after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE investigators found that Mr Marsden failed to ensure the wall was properly built to withstand the pressures of an earth-retaining structure. Mr Marsden was involved first-hand in the work on site and directed the other workers on the build.

Cracks appeared in the wall and work was temporarily halted but adequate precautions were not taken to ensure the safety of the residents in the house.

Action not taken after cracks appeared

Magistrates fined Lee Marsden, of Fartown, £140 and ordered him to pay £100 in costs. Mr Marsden, who represented himself, no longer works.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Dave Stewart said:

“Construction work should only be undertaken by those competent to do the job safely in accordance with a design that deals with the specific risks. Mr Marsden did not recognise the dangers posed by the structure he built, which was incapable of retaining the forces exerted upon it.

He also failed to prevent access to the wall when cracks appeared, and it was recognised as unstable. The wall did collapse and, sadly, the householder was in the garden at the time and was seriously injured.

Building contractors should engage competent engineers to advise on suitable designs for structures that will be subject to considerable loads. Inadequate design is a major cause of structural failure – the consequences of which can be serious and often fatal.”

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