Demolition Business Handed Sanction

| General

In mid-December 2022 news emerged of Health and Safety Executive decision to impose a substantial one hundred thousand pound sanction to a business specializing in property development after a workforce member sustained fatal injuries after a wall collapsed.   

What Happened In The Case?

This matter concerned a self-employed sub-contractor providing his services on the demolition of a party wall of a house in June 2019. All appeared to be progressing without incident. However, matters deteriorated when the sub-contractors colleagues appear to have signed off from the working day just before 4 pm. When a neighbor arrived home after completing the working day approximately one hour later the person was greeted by the alarming vision of the sub-contractor appearing to be stuck under the wall and trapped between a section of the wall that had fallen in the kitchen and the external wall of the house. The discovery was particularly distressing for the neighbor as the subcontractor appears to have failed to respond. Sadly there was nothing anybody could do for him and he was reported to have passed away at the scene as a direct result of the injuries he sustained in the accident with the wall.      

What Did The Health and Safety Executive Say?

Due to the serious nature of the event and the horrific outcome, the Health and Safety Executive seems to have wanted to delve into the events which had occurred in June 2019 and made several alarming findings that are food for thought for anyone considering knocking down a wall in the future. The Health and Safety Executive discovered that:

in the construction phase planning documents the business did not appear to have any plans detailing the demolition of the wall
it did not seem to have included a method statement
the building business had not assessed the risk involved in the project 
there was no clear oversight mechanism in place by upper management to support compliance with their legal obligations in this area
the organization was not permitted to engage members of the workforce who did not have the required level of English language skills and
arguably the most serious of all the sub-contractor was incompetent to conduct demolition work as he had not been provided with the required professional training to equip him with the skills to carry out the job.   

Feet to the Fire?

Due to the seriousness of the events which had taken place, the building company representatives admitted violating Regulation 4 of The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Wirral Magistrates Court imposed a financial sanction in the amount of one hundred thousand pounds. This was not the end of the matter as the regulator appears to have made an example of a director involved in the matter. He pleaded guilty to violations of Regulation 13 of The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and the court handed down a suspended prison sentence.   

Lessons Learned? 

Corporations specialising in similar services should be carefully considering the Health and Safety Executive’s judgment here and how it would apply in future similar matters. To mitigate the risk of such travesties from taking place lawyers should be advising their clients to consider ensuring: 

  • that the work is properly planned
  • activities are accounted for professionally
  • proper risk assessments are conducted
  • method statements are completed and submitted
  • make sure their workforce is equipped with the competency skills for their role and 
  • sufficient oversight by upper management is in place for the project activities to be performed in compliance with the regulations. 

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