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    HSE TARGETS BASEMENT PROJECT SAFETY STANDARDS

    Intensive inspection aims to cut excavation deaths and injuries

    HSE Construction Division is set to carry out an inspection initiative targeting basement projects in the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, and Hammersmith and Fulham to improve safety in the increasingly popular basement sector.

    This initiative has been prompted by a number a number of fatal incidents, as well as serious injuries, on basement projects in London.

    More widely, over the last 10 years, HSE has received reports of 17 construction workers having died as a result of an excavation collapsing, whilst in the same period 27 were seriously injured.

    Inspection teams will be looking at key safety issues including:

    • Excavation safety – precautions to prevent a collapse;
    • Structural integrity – prevention of building collapse or undermining;
    • Lifting operations – safe handling heavy steel beams;
    • Work at height etc – safe access and protection of openings/edges etc;
    • Welfare – provision and maintenance of suitable facilities; and
    • Training – suitable skills and training of those undertaking the work.

    Following the death of a workman in a basement excavation collapse in Fulham, a company director was found guilty of manslaughter offences and jailed in 2014

    Failing to appoint a competent temporary works engineer

    HSE construction inspector James Hickman, whose team covers south-west London, said:

    “The construction of basements in London is increasingly widespread. Often it is carried out under existing homes as owners seek to increase their living space without a house move.

    The work is technically challenging and can carry substantial risk. Standards are often poor and often vulnerable sections of the labour market are recruited.

    Contractors are failing to appoint a competent temporary works engineer to design suitable propping to support excavations and existing structures. Likewise, on many projects basic safeguards are missing, such as edge protection to prevent falls from height. And all too often little thought is given to providing proper welfare facilities for site workers.

    Where we find poor practice that is putting lives at risk we will take action, including stopping work and prosecuting those responsible.”

    The risks of working in unsupported excavations are well known throughout the industry, as are the precautions required to ensure work is carried out safely.

    The HSE publication HSG150 Health and safety in construction contains advice and guidance on what measures to take in order to ensure excavation works are carried out safely.

    Safe and efficient basement construction guide

    ASUCplus is the independent trade association originally formed by contractors within the subsidence industry. The membership now includes retrofit basement construction and other specialist domestic services.

    The ASUCplus has published (Oct 2013) Guidelines on safe and efficient basement construction directly below or near to existing structures.

    The document has been produced by industry experts in consultation with HSE and with support funding from the CITB.

    Domestic projects to be brought within CDM Regulations 2015

    Basement projects undertaken on behalf of domestic clients will come under as more extensive regulatory regime when the CDM Regulations 2015 come into operation on 6th April 2015.

    The domestic client new duty to appoint a Principal Designer and Principal Contractor will be ‘deemed’ to designers and contractors working on the project and Pre-Construction Information plus a Construction Phase Plan will be required on all basement projects.

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