CDM Co-Ordinator Could Have Prevented Dangers
Two building firms were recently fined by magistrates for “appalling” standards at a building site in SW London.
The principal contractor was Kubik Homes Ltd, whose subcontractor was Bellway Developments Ltd.
The principal contractor had already been served with three Prohibition Notices following HSE visits, one of which was seen to be breached while Inspectors were on site.
The Court heard that there was no safe access to the first floor being constructed. There was just a makeshift staircase made from a bag of sand and piles of blocks, leading to the roof of a hut.
From there the first floor was reached precariously using wooden planks (laid only the day before the final inspection) that bridged the gap. No edge protection had been created to prevent falls.
Another clear failure to adhere to any CDM planning was the existence of a 2.5 metre-deep excavation that had no precautions that would have prevented people falling into it, or any reinforcement that would stop the pit walls collapsing on anyone working inside.
Inspectors reported that the site terrain was dangerously uneven and was littered with obstructions and tripping hazards. Materials were stacked excessively high and stored poorly. Welfare facilities on-site were very bad: for example the toilet was filthy and its cold water supply leaked.
All work on site was ordered to cease until health and safety standards had been improved. On returning to the site, HSE Inspectors found an inadequate attempt had been made to erect edge protection around the first floor.
This was cited as an example that staff in both Kubik and Bellway lacked the necessary training, experience and site management qualifications to meet Health & Safety standards.
And while HSE were on site, two men were walking on the first floor in breach of one of the Prohibition Notices. It became clear that work was still continuing in an unsafe manner, so a fourth HSE Prohibition Notice was served. This ordered all work on the site to stop until competent site management was put in place.
HSE’s inspector was quoted as follows:
“Although there was no incident, the potential danger to the workers was very high.
“Conditions on this site were simply appalling. This is a shocking example of bad management of a construction site and it is a miracle that no one was injured.
“Both these companies failed to understand the nature of their duties under health and safety law and failed to sufficiently improve conditions on the site despite repeated interventions by the HSE. We will not hesitate to prosecute companies that behave in this way.”
Kubik Homes Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety etc at Work Act 1974 and was fined £8,000 plus costs of £2,426.
Bellway Developments Ltd also pleaded guilty to breaching the Act. It was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,384.
The lesson surely is that matters would not have come to a head in this way had the principal contractor been working from the outset of the project with a qualified firm of CDM consultants. Their expertise and knowledge of construction regulations would have proved a major asset, and the sub-contractors would also have been involved in the consultation and specification process that CDM co-ordinators carry out.
Thereafter, best practice as set out by Health and Safety consultants could have been adhered to and the shortcomings of the in-house staff might have been far less critical. Training could have also been arranged to improve necessary skills.
It is not always easy to find a firm that genuinely covers the bases from CDM Co-ordination through to the creation and monitoring of Risk Assessments, with the appropriate follow-up. McCormack Benson Health & Safety is a rare example.