Plumbing Suppliers and Contractor Found Guilty After Building Collapse

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigated after a building undergoing work collapsed, with debris falling into an adjacent car park and onto the main road which runs alongside. It was felt that the reason there were no injuries was extremely lucky and in part due to the fact the collapse occurred on a Sunday when the passing footfall and road traffic was low.

The organiser of the work, a plumbing supplier, employed a contractor to do the work. HSE found that the organiser (the client) failed to conduct any appraisal or look into the competencies of the contractor and did not adequately plan, manage or monitor the work and was found guilty and subsequently fined £85,843, including £10,843 in costs.

The contractor, who hired and sourced equipment and materials to complete the building work failed to ensure the structural integrity of the building and ensure lifting operations were carried out in a safe manner, thereby placing others, including members of the public at risk, was sentenced to six months imprisonment which was suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to pay £750 in costs.

If you are a business organising such work, you will be regarded as a commercial client under The Construction Design & Management Regulations 2015 (CDM) and your main duty is to ensure the project is suitably managed and that the health & safety of all those who may be affected is ensured.  Both commercial (and domestic) clients have the legal duty to make suitable arrangements for safely managing a project. Commercial clients’ duties include:

  • Notifying the HSE of certain larger projects (where construction work is scheduled to last longer than 30 working days and have more than 20 workers working simultaneously at any point or exceed 500 person days).
  • Preparing a client brief and pre-construction information.
  • Drawing together a competent project team – a competence assessment involves checks of skills, knowledge, training and experience and, if it relates to an organisation, organisational capability.
  • Appointing a principal designer and principal contractor for projects involving more than one contractor and taking reasonable steps to ensure that they comply with their duties.
  • Ensuring that sufficient time and resources are allocated.
  • Ensuring that welfare facilities are provided throughout the project.
  • Ensuring that a construction phase plan (CPP) is drawn up by the contractor (or principal contractor, in the case of projects involving more than one contractor) before the construction phase begins – this is now required for all construction projects, rather than only notifiable projects.
  • For projects involving more than one contractor, ensuring that a health and safety file is prepared, retained and maintained for future use.

Following the judgement HSE stated “This situation could so easily have been avoided by ensuring someone competent was carrying out the work in a planned and organised manner.  Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

If this alert has raised questions or you need to discuss any other health & safety related issue do not hesitate to contact your health & safety consultant or the main office for advice / assistance.