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INTERNATIONAL CONTRACTOR FAILS THE UK TEST

Proactive prosecution triggered by poor project management

An international construction firm has been fined £40,000 after admitting heath and offences at a Manchester project where it was carrying out a shop refurbishment.

Betcat International Limited (based in Seville, Spain) with offices in Europe, including London was engaged by a high street clothing retailer to carry out refurbishment and alteration works at a store on Market Street, Manchester.

The project involved the full refurbishment of the multi-storey retail unit, including structural alterations to facilitate the installation of two new staircases, the installation of a lift shaft, and the removal and infilling of an existing stairway.

The site manager was employed by Betcat and the operatives on site were contractors.

Wide range of failures

The HSE Inspector visited the project on 29th July 2014 to investigate concerns raised by a member of the public and to carry out an inspection of the construction works. A number of issues were identified during the visit namely:

  • Tower scaffolds – two operatives were using tower scaffolds which were not properly erected with full edge protection. One of the tower scaffolds was balanced at an angle on some steps so that the working platform was not level;
  • Staircase with open edges – an operative was observed using a new steel staircase from the ground floor to the 1st floor. The staircase had no handrails or any form of edge protection to prevent falls from height;
  • Lift shaft opening – a workman was observed standing on a structural steel beam spanning a large lift shaft opening in the concrete floor. There was nothing to stop this man from falling through to the floor below. The standard of guarding around the opening was poor on each floor and access was not prevented. There were also materials being stored in the area, indicating that operatives were approaching the opening frequently to retrieve materials;
  • Walkways – the site was heavily congested with materials, waste and other debris without clear walkways and very low lighting levels;
  • Welfare facilities – the toilet had been removed and there was no other toilets on site nor any washing facilities;
  • Machine guarding – a bench saw was used without guarding over the blade. The user pushed timber floor boards through the exposed blade by hand;
  • Dust control – a wood saw set up for cutting timber products was not provided with dust extraction and there were piles of dust on all surfaces and large amounts of dust in the air;
  • Fire precautions – there were no fire alarms on site and fire extinguishers were out of date.

The HSE inspectors served six Prohibition Notices and two Improvement Notices, along with a Notification of Contravention. Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard all the issues were satisfactorily addressed by the company following HSE’s intervention.

Completely failed in duty to protect workers

Betcat International Limited, 3 More London Riverside, London SE1 pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates Court to breaching Section 2(1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £40,000 (£20,000 per offence) with £3761costs.

HSE inspector Laura Moran said after the case:

“Betcat International Limited completely failed in its duty to protect its workers, its subcontractors and visitors to its site from harm.

Given the range of serious breaches identified, it is very fortunate that nobody was injured or even killed while working on this site.

I would therefore like to thank the member of the public who alerted us to the work, and may well have prevented a serious injury.”

 

 

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