A construction firm in London has been fined over an incident which resulted in the collapse of a building. The company failed to properly plan and consult on excavation works.
Astbury Design and Build Ltd has been fined for neglecting basic construction safety after excavation work caused the structural collapse of an adjoining property in the area in February 2013.
According to media reports a foundation trench was excavated too close to foundations of the neighbouring semi-detached house. Thankfully the occupants of the house were not at home at the time and there were no injuries, but things could have been much more devastating.
Also safety investigators revealed that the owner of the property was not informed of the intention to excavate a trench or informed of how the work would be carried out, although by law he should have been.
This article from PPConstructionsafety.com explains what happened:
The neighbour had appointed a party wall consultant regarding the ongoing works and the consultant warned Astbury not to undermine the foundations.
Experienced builder should have known better
Astbury Design and Build Ltd, of Bushbury Road, Wolverhampton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was today fined £7,500 and ordered to pay costs of £4,500.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Gareth Langston said:
“This was a serious incident that could have easily been prevented had Astbury Design and Build Ltd followed the recognised procedure relating to party walls and detailed the work to the neighbour’s consultant. The consultant would have realised the implications and stopped him. Even so, Mr Astbury is an experienced builder and should have known better in the first place.
The trench should have been dug in metre-long sections, pouring in concrete and waiting until it had set before digging the next section. This would have underpinned and supported the wall of the neighbouring house.
It was extremely fortunate that the occupants were out of the house at the time of the collapse. This could so easily have had much more serious consequences.”
Experts highlighted that the excavation was incorrectly carried out and so the stability could not be guaranteed. Had the trench been dug in metre-long sections and concrete poured in,in stages before the next section was done, this incident could have been avoided. The process of doing the work in stages would have underpinned and supported the wall of the neighbouring house.
In order to manage risks under the WHS Regulations when undertaking excavation work a duty holder must:
- identify any hazards that could give rise to the risk
- eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable
- if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk they must attempt to minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control
- maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective
- reviewand if necessary revise control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
Employers should then attempt to manage the risks associated with excavation work by following a systematic process that involves:
- identifying hazards
- if necessary, assessing the risks associated with these hazards
- implementing control measures, and
- maintaining and reviewing the effectiveness of control measures.