Concrete collapse injures 3 on building site


This is a (thankfully) unusual case where an alteration had to be made to correct an error in the construction of a house, which resulted in a collapse due to poor planning and a lack of preparation. Three workers were hurt, one seriously.

The developer client, Belmont Homes (Cheshire) Ltd, and one of its various contractors, bricklaying firm Waymac Ltd, were those that were held to be liable for the avoidable accident. The project was a major £2 million, 4-storey, 6-bedroom new house build in the Trafford area.

Floor height error

The two companies realised that the steel framework for creating the first floor had been constructed at too high a level. In order to lower it, they would have to shorten some of the concrete padstones that supported it, by lifting up the frame, reducing the concrete height, then lowering the frame down again.

After this was completed, concrete floor beams were put in place, but when this was done, on 11thNovember 2011 the floor framework collapsed (as shown).

Three workers were taken down with the fall, and beams fell on top of them. Two luckily escaped with light damage; the third sustained serious injury.  He instinctively raised his left arm to protect his head from a falling concrete beam, which weighed some half a tonne.

This Wythenshawe-based man suffered a long list of injuries that kept him in hospital for 5 weeks. These included fractured ribs, a crushed arm, a punctured lung, back damage and a broken collarbone. As a result of a loss of control over his left hand and his very limited use of the left arm, he has not been able to work in the period of over 2 years since the incident.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation found that:

  • the work to lower the steel frame had been badly planned
  • the potential risk of collapse of the weakened structure was not considered
  • site work was poorly planned
  • workers’ lives were needlessly endangered

HSE commented that the client Belmont “failed to get a grip of the project.” As for Waymac, it is “an experienced bricklaying firm” and it should have been obvious to both companies that the proposed floor lifting and re-lowering was hazardous. “They should have sought the advice of a structural engineer before allowing the work to go ahead.

At Liverpool Crown Court, Belmont Homes (Cheshire) Ltd, received a fine of £33,000 and costs of £15,000, after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Meanwhile Waymac Ltd was guilty under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 by failing to ensure the structure did not collapse as a result of its work. Its fine was £9,000 plus £15,000 in costs.

As HSE reminds us, construction workers are 4 times more likely to be killed at work than the average worker. This is not entirely surprising when one compares, say, a sedentary indoor office job with life on a building site, and Britain’s construction health & safety figures compare well with almost every other nation; but it still behoves all construction safety consultants, such as the building sector specialists of McCormack Benson Health & Safety, to do all in their power to help make our sites as safe as they reasonably can be.