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‘MIRACLE’ ESCAPE IN CHURCH BUILDING COLLAPSE

Incorrect bolts triggered collapse of stacked portable buildings

Relocatable Building Systems Ltd has been fined after a two-storey portable building collapsed whilst more than 30 children and parents were playing in the lower room Ashbourne Elim Pentecostal Church in Derbyshire in October 2013.

South Derbyshire Magistrates heard the two refurbished units were installed in September 2013. On 24th October both cabins “dropped” when a bolt on the jacking leg of the lower unit sheared off and the top part of the leg came out of the wooden frame causing the collapse.

The upper cabin came to rest on the roof of the lower cabin. One volunteer suffered a bruised arm and all were badly shaken. Senior pastor, Rev Ben Brown said it was a ‘miracle’ the lower cabin had not collapsed on them.

HSE investigators found that during refurbishment new inner sections of the jacking legs were installed but the original pins (used to adjust the height of the legs) could not be fitted due to the holes not being drilled to the correct size. Smaller bolts not designed for this purpose were used.

Terrifying incident for those involved

Relocatable Building Systems Ltd, of Hilton, Derby was fined a total of £8,000 with £1,589 costs after admitting two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Steve Shaw said:

“This was a terrifying incident for those involved and left a lot of people scared and upset.

During installation the company should have carried out a final check to ensure all the work had been completed and the two cabins were bolted together safely. It is very lucky that the top cabin stayed in contact with three of the jacking legs as this prevented the full weight coming to rest on the wooden frame of the lower unit where children were playing. The wooden frames are not designed to take the weight of an upper unit so it could have quite easily come crashing down with horrific consequences.

The collapse could have been avoided by Relocatable Building Systems had the refurbishment been undertaken in a suitable manner using the same or better specification material as the original.”

Senior Pastor, Rev Ben Brown, whose wife and two-year-old son were in the lower room at the time of the incident, said:

“It was a complete miracle that it did not fall further but came to rest where it did. Another half inch and the consequences would have been devastating. I think someone was certainly looking after us that day.

It was horrific. The community’s confidence in the church was destroyed through no fault of our own and we had to build that trust back up again. There is still some suspicion and a few people still refuse to go in the buildings, even though they’ve been back in place for over a year. There’s no doubt our relationship with the community suffered as a result of what happened.”

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