Major collapse of central London refurbishment site


The devastated site that you see below is the remains of a big project in London’s Fulham Road, after two buildings came down suddenly over a weekend in January 2011. The case has now come to court and the findings are damning in terms of the construction health and safety failings that they expose: they resulted in guilty pleas on no less than 7 counts for the company and 6 for its director.

Ethos Construction Solutions Ltd of Chesham, Bucks, run by its sole director Pritish Lad, was principal contractor for a big project to renovate a block of 14 buildings, creating 56 new apartments as well as 13 commercial units.

Two adjacent buildings, Numbers 270 and 280 Fulham Road, collapsed suddenly on Sunday 23 January. This was exceptionally lucky in terms of timing as no-one was working and the area was quieter than on any other day.

BusyFulham Roadwas partly closed for several weeks to allow the neighbouring buildings, including some determined to be structurally dangerous, to be assessed and where necessary made safe. The debris from the collapsed buildings took several days to clear away.

HSE Inspectors placed a Prohibition Notice on the site to stop any further refurbishment until they could be persuaded it was safe and stable to resume.

The six main safety lapses that they found included:

  1. existing buildings made weak and unstable (there had been renovation within the two collapsed buildings, including alterations to  party walls and demolition of rear extensions)
  2. no assessments of the risk of collapsing
  3. lack of a temporary works plan for use by workers
  4. no checking of whether workers were trained and competent on the work needed
  5. storing heavy piles of bricks on many floors of buildings, creating a potential for over-loading
  6. badly-installed and positioned support props

Elsewhere around the extended site the Inspectors also found –

  • an unsafe excavation of up to 3 metres deep along the whole redevelopment site
  • working at height risks
  • flammable materials being poorly stored and not controlled, creating fire risks
  • lack of suitable emergency exits
  • not enough fire detection or fire fighting equipment
  • poor site security

These failings led to the issue of two more Prohibition Notices.

Ethos Construction Solutions Limited was fined £14,000 plus £9,000 in costs. The company pleaded guilty to six separate breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and one breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Director Pritish Lad (34) of Pinner, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to five separate breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 as well as the same Work at Height breach as his company. He was fined £9,500 plus costs of £6,750.

The Inspector concerned made the points that the devasted site would have resulted in many injuries and deaths had it happened during the week: also that the collapse could also easily have gone in the direction of the road, with similarly unthinkable consequences for members of the public.

He described the failings found at the site as ‘shocking, both in terms of their scale and severity’.

His comments suggest that experienced managers were onsite while work took place, but clearly they did not fulfil their responsibilities, and ultimately the Director is responsible for the safety of his team and of the public.

If your team is over-stretched and there is a risk that they will not apply the right safety standards on your site, seek professional assistance from McCormack Benson Health & Safety.