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Collapse of 2 Apartments Spurs Fines

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

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A British construction company and its owner will pay thousands of dollars in fines for breaches of safety regulations that led to the 2011 collapse of two apartment buildings in central London.

Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said Ethos Construction Solutions Ltd., of Buckinghamshire, and sole director Pritish Lad, 34, of Middlesex, allowed existing structures at a 14-building renovation project in Westminster to become weak and unstable, which contributed to the collapse.

Fulham Road collapsed building
Health and Safety Executive

Health and safety authorities say general contractor Ethos Construction and its director were responsible for dangerous working practices and poor planning and management at a renovation project in London. Two buildings on the site collapsed in January 2011. No injuries were reported.

Authorities prosecuted the company and director before Westminster Magistrates Court, alleging many dangerous working practices and poor planning and management of the project.

On Aug. 1, the Court fined Ethos Construction £14,000 ($21,501 USD) and ordered it to pay an additional £9,000 ($13,812 USD) in costs, the HSE announced.

The company pleaded guilty to six breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and a single breach of Work at Height Regulations 2005, according to HSE.

Lad pleaded guilty to five separate breaches of the 2007 Construction (Design and Management) Regulations and the same Work at Height breach. He was fined a total of £9,500 ($14,590 USD) with costs of £6,750 ($10,353 USD), according to HSE.

The breaches and regulation language are indicated in HSE's announcement.

Collapse: ‘Complete Devastation’

Ethos Construction, led by Lad, was the principal contractor for the project, which involved renovating and refurbishing a self-contained block of 14 buildings on Fulham Road to create 56 new apartments and 13 commercial units.

On Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011, two adjoining buildings collapsed at the site “without warning,” HSE said.

No injuries were reported as the collapse occurred over the weekend. Traffic problems ensued after the collapse, according to local newspapers.

“The development site was a scene of complete devastation following the collapse, and had anyone been working at the time, there could have been multiple fatalities and serious injuries,” said HSE Inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers.

Neighboring buildings that sustained structural damage in the collapse were checked and repaired, HSE reported. A prohibition notice was put in place after the collapse to stop the renovation project until the site was declared safe and stable.

Safety Violations Discovered

HSE authorities said they uncovered a number of safety violations during their investigation and told the magistrates of “overwhelming evidence of dangerous working practices and poor planning and management, for which the principal contractor and director were ultimately responsible as duty holders.”

Westminster Magistrate Court
GrimsbyT / Wikimedia Commons

HSE officials prosecuted the construction company and its director for the safety failings in Westminster Magistrates' Court more than two years after the collapse.

For example, Ethos Construction and Lad permitted existing structures at the jobsite to become weak and unstable, the HSE said, noting evidence of renovation activity within the collapsed buildings, including work on walls and demolition of rear extensions.

Further, the company allegedly failed to assess evidence of a collapse risk. Large piles of bricks on several floors of buildings left standing posed overloading risks, HSE noted.

Ethos Construction also failed to ensure that its workers were sufficiently trained and competent to undertake the work, HSE said.

In addition, HSE inspectors identified other issues, including:

  • An unsafe excavation up to three meters deep running the entire length of the development site;
  • Risks concerning working at height;
  • Fire risks from poorly stored and poorly controlled flammable materials;
  • Failure to provide suitable emergency exits;
  • Insufficient fire detection and firefighting equipment; and
  • Inadequate site security.

"This prosecution should serve to remind directors of construction companies that it is unacceptable to simply assume workers in their care are protected because nobody has complained that standards are poor, or because they have experienced managers on the ground,” said Verrall-Withers.

HSE is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety, similar to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency conducts research, training, inspections, investigation and enforcement.

   

Tagged categories: Commercial Construction; Enforcement; Hazards; Health and safety; Regulations; Renovation

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