Category Archives: In Court

Estate agents fined after househunter falls 30ft down a well during property viewing

Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard how, during an open house viewing a prospective buyer stepped onto a wooden board which was covering a well.  The board gave way and she fell 30ft down the well, where she became submerged by water. A hosepipe was thrown to the woman and she managed to secure it around her waist it was another hour before she was recused from the well. The incident left the victim with head injuries, including concussion but also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The incident occurred while the estate agents were holding an open house viewing at a property.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the estate agents had been warned about the well and the board that was covering it did not look safe. The company did not properly investigate if there was a risk of people falling down the well when they were viewing the property. It was heard that a Strakers’ employee had visited the house, and assumed that the wooden board would have a metal grill underneath it. He did not however lift the board to check.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matthew Tyler said: “This incident could have easily become a fatal tragedy. If, when warned, of the unsafe well the company had properly checked to see if it was secure the trauma this individual has gone through could have been prevented.

“Employers must check the risks associated with their work to protect their workers and members of the public they have contact with. Once they have identified any risks they can take practical steps to control them.”

Suspended jail sentence for fire risk assessor

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) is advising Fire Risk Assessors from across the South Wales area to take due diligence of their legal obligations when undertaking fire risk assessments on behalf of organisations.

A Fire Risk Assessor from Barry pleaded guilty to 13 separate charges relating to failures in carrying out suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments. The fire risk assessment failed to identify serious fire safety deficiencies in a number of St David’s Hospice Care premises.

As a result of two devastating fires at St. David’s Hospice’s retail outlets in Pontypool and Newbridge, an investigation was undertaken by South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. Subsequently, Business Fire Safety Officers visited over 30 of their premises which identified serious failings with the fire risk assessments that had been undertaken.

Steve Rossiter, Head of Business Fire Safety for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said, “The court has today sent a strong message to would-be fire risk assessors, that there is a clear expectation that as an assessor, you must be competent at carrying out a Fire Risk Assessment. This means having a good understanding of fire safety requirements, both technically and practically. Suitable and sufficient fire risk assessments are at the heart of ensuring safe buildings and as such holds significant responsibilities.

Southwark Council Pleads Guilty following fatal Lakanal House Blaze

Southwark Council expressed its “sincere regret” as it pleaded guilty to four charges relating to a tower block fire which killed six people.

Three women and three young children were killed in the 2009 blaze at Lakanal House in Camberwell, Southwark Crown Court heard.

The fire started due an electrical fault with a television.

Southwark Council pleaded guilty to charges relating to safety breaches and must pay £300,000 costs.

The council will be sentenced on Tuesday, where it is expected to be fined.

The charges, dating from 1 October 2006 to 3 July 2009, include a failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment, failure to take general fire precautions – including in relation to safety of employees – and a failure to ensure that premises were subject to a suitable system of maintenance.

Following the hearing, councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We took the decision to plead guilty to all four counts of breach of fire safety regulations associated with the Lakanal building on the July 2 2009, the day before the fire.

“This is because, as an authority, we fully accept responsibility for the fire safety of all our council homes. The fact remains that the council did not have a Fire Risk Assessment for Lakanal in place on this date. Without this record, we can never categorically decide on the fire safety of the building before the fire happened.

This tragic fire and the deaths of six people in 2009, have meant that the council has had to reflect hard on the mistakes of the past.  Since then, we have spent £62m on our fire risk assessment programme and associated fire safety works for all of our council housing in the borough. We have worked closely with London Fire Brigade and meet regularly with them, informing them of progress on the risk profile of the borough and agreeing with them the strategy and actions we are taking to ensure fire safety remains a high priority for the council.”

An inquest into the six victim’s death was held in 2013, which returned narrative, highlighting “numerous missed opportunities” to carry out fire safety checks inside the building.

Camberwell and Peckham MP, Harriet Harman gave a statement that also put blame on the London Fire Brigade.

She said: “No-one would have died if the Fire Brigade had instructed people to leave their flats. The Fire Brigade, too, were responsible because as the fire spread and the safety measures failed, they failed to change their instructions to residents.

“Those who ignored the Fire Brigade’s instructions to stay put escaped with their lives. Those who accepted the instructions to stay in their flat died.  The Fire Brigade say they too have learned lessons.

“This prosecution sends a strong message not just to the London Borough of Southwark but to all landlords, public and private, that their tenants’ safety must be an absolute priority”.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said: “It is important to say that this prosecution is not focused on the fire that happened on 3 July 2009 or on the tragic loss of life following the fire but on the risk of death and serious injury from fire that existed at Lakanal between 2006 and July 2009.

“Millions of people in London live in purpose built blocks of flats. Our advice remains the same, that living in a flat is not more dangerous than living in a house but it’s important to know that your fire plan should be different.

“If buildings are built and maintained correctly, walls, floors and doors in flats and maisonettes give you protection from fire – a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes – so, if there is a fire elsewhere in the building but not inside your home you’re safer staying in your flat unless heat or smoke is affecting you. Stay put and call 999.

“If you leave your flat you could be rushing into choking smoke, the fire itself or firefighters using equipment to bring the fire under control in another part of the building.

“If there is a fire inside your flat or maisonette or you are being directly affected by it our advice is to leave, closing the door behind you and call 999.”

Director disqualified and sent to prison for safety failings which led to young worker suffering serious burns

HSE reports that the director of a construction company has been imprisoned for eight months after failing to take appropriate action which resulted in a young worker receiving serious burns.

Cardiff Crown Court heard the young worker was instructed to stand on top of a skip and pour a drum of flammable thinners onto the burning waste to help it to burn. The fireball that resulted when the thinners ignited caused the worker to be blown from the skip and he suffered substantial burns to his arms and legs.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the company director did not ensure the burning of the waste material was being carried out in a safe or appropriate manner. He failed to administer any first aid to the young injured worker and did not send him to hospital, the most appropriate response given the severity of the injuries suffered. He failed to inform HSE of the incident, a legal requirement, and the incident was only reported sometime later by a third party

Speaking after the case HSE inspector Adele Davies said “David Stead failed his employees. His actions could have resulted in the death of this worker. The young man suffered unnecessary life threatening injuries due to poor working standards.

“We hope this sentence sends out a message that directors of businesses must take their health and safety responsibilities seriously.”

8 month prison sentence following fatal fall

The HSE has reported on a court case involving a Manchester Building Contractor who engaged unqualified labourers for roof works.

The building contractor has been jailed for 8 months following the death of a casual labourer who fell nearly seven metres through a fragile roof.

The 45-year-old labourer from Manchester had been carrying out repair work when the incident occurred on 23 November 2013.

The building contractor had been engaged by the warehouse owner, who believed him to be competent, to carry out repair and maintenance work on the warehouse roof. He then hired two people to do the work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that both workers were not qualified to carry out work at height. They had accessed the roof via a ladder in order to repair and seal leaking guttering. No safety precautions were in place to protect the two men from the danger of falling through the fragile roof.

Manchester Crown Court heard that The building contractor failed to assess the risks or put a safe working method in place. No suitable training or equipment to work on the roof had been provided.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Principal Inspector Mike Sebastian is reported to have said: ”The dangers of falls through fragile roofs and working at height are well known. Simple steps such as removing the need to access the roof directly by using mobile working platforms, or boarding out the roof, or using safety harnesses, can and should be used to prevent accident and injury.

The failure to take any such actions resulted in a tragic and needless loss of life.

Southwark Council to be prosecuted over Lakanal House blaze in 2009

The London Evening Standard has reported that London Fire Brigade are to prosecute Southwark Council over the fatal fire that happened at Lakanal House in Camberwell back in 2009.

6 People lost their lives in the fire.  The inquest into the fire identified fire safety deficiencies with the building, lack of fire risk assessments across a number of buildings under Southwark’s ownership and control, along with issues with firefighting operations on the day of the fire.

It is unclear exactly why it has taken so long for a prosecution to be brought, but it is noted that Southwark Council had previously and unsuccessfully argued that there was a conflict of interest in London Fire Brigade taking the prosecution.  Their argument of a conflict of interest was based on criticisms in fire fighting operations from the inquest and the close involvement of London Fire Brigade with Southwark, including the delivery of fire risk assessment training for staff.  However, the High Court ruled there was no conflict of interest and that opened the way for a prosecution to be brought.

The case is due to be heard in Southwark Crown Court on January 11th 2017.

 

Lack of asbestos management plan leads to prosecution

HSE’s website carries news of a property company in Oxfordshire has been fined for failing to manage asbestos on their premises following a fire.

Reading Crown Court heard how a fire occurred at Faringdon Business Park on 26 July 2014 destroying four units on the site.

Tapecrown Limited failed to have a suitable plan and risk assessment in place for the safe management of asbestos containing materials on their premises.

Tapecrown Limited, of Market Place, Wantage, Oxfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(3) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,000.

HSE inspector Sharron Cripps said: “It is important for all duty holders to manage asbestos on their premises. To do this the dutyholder needs to identify asbestos containing material (ACM), determine where it is located, what condition it is in and what measures should be taken to manage the risk associated with asbestos.

For further information on Duty to Manage Asbestos visit: www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/duty.htm

Company and Director fined after Multiple Safety Failings on Construction Site

HSE’s website reports that a construction company and its Managing Director have been prosecuted for operating an unsafe construction site during the conversion of a building in Bollington.

Manchester and Salford Magistrates’ Court heard how the conditions on the site, where a former pub was being changed into two houses, were so poor it prompted a member of public to complain to the local authority.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspected the site and had to stop all the work on the building as the conditions were so dangerous and putting workers lives at immediate risk. In total HSE inspectors served three prohibition notices and two improvements notices for safety failings that ranges from work at height issues, missing floorings with no protection and health failings including the provision of welfare facilities with running water.

HSE’s inspection also found an extremely unsafe wall on the property that had not been sufficiently supported to prevent it from collapsing.

The HSE investigation found that both the company and its director did not put in place effective health and safety management at the start of the conversion. They failed to notify HSE of the project, appoint a competent principal contractor or ensure they had suitable and sufficient measures to reduce risks to workers and members of the public.

HSE prosecution announcement

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has this week informed BAM Nuttall Limited, Ferrovial Agroman (UK) Ltd, and Keir Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd that they will be prosecuted in relation to three incidents that took place during the construction of the new Crossrail railway tunnel construction, which runs east to west across London.

HSE’s website reports that all three companies will appear at Westminster’s Magistrates Court in January 2017 to face four charges, each. Two relating to the death of Rene Tka’cik on the 7 March 2014 and one each relating to injuries to Terrence Hughes on the 16 January and Alex Vizitiu on 22 January 2015.

Roofing firm fined after worker’s ladder fall

HSE’s website carries news of a King’s Lynn roofing company has been prosecuted after a worker fell seven metres from a scaffold access ladder while assisting with chimney repairs.

Kings Lynn Magistrates Court heard how the worker was subcontracted by J Webber Roofing Limited to assist with removing waste, mixing cement and bringing tools up to colleagues who were working on the chimney at a domestic property on Beech Avenue in Kings Lynn on 10 July 2015.

The company had erected a scaffold platform around the chimney with an access ladder attached to it. The worker climbed up the ladder carrying a cement filled bucket with a radio attached to it, on his shoulder. He lost his balance and fell approximately seven metres to the ground. The fall resulted in multiple fractures to both of the worker’s wrists and his lower left arm. He required surgery and steel plates and will never regain full use of his hands.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that J Webber failed to adequately plan work at height which involved manual handling of construction materials and waste up and down scaffold ladders.

J Webber Roofing Limited of 81 Gayton Road, Gaywood, Kings Lynn pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,582 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Kasia Urbaniak said: “The risk of falls from ladders is well known. Ladders are being frequently misused where often better specifically designed equipment is easily available.

“This incident which has left a worker without the full use of his hands could have been easily avoided if a ‘gin wheel’ had been installed on the scaffold platform to transport tools and other construction materials”.