HSE gets tough on loft conversions


Another week, another fall from height prosecution by HSE…

But this time, the information provided reveals that the safety body is directing its inspectors to focus specifically on the loft conversion sector of the construction industry. Here, therefore, is a warning to all contractors engaged in such conversions to be extra-careful and vigilant lest the next case should involve you, or in case you should find yourself in receipt of an FFI (Fee For Intervention) invoice.

In this specific case, a team working for specialist firm More Than Lofts Ltd of Worcester Park, Sutton, Surrey was carrying out a roof conversion in Hammersmith, West London. On 6th June 2013, one unnamed young worker (17) from Morden, SW London was in the roof area when he inadvertently put his foot on a fragile covering over a hole in the ceiling, causing him to fall some 4 metres to the staircase below.

Luckily although he suffered bruises and cuts, he was not badly injured.

Not the first infringement

It emerged that this was not the first time that the firm had come to HSE’s attention. In June 2010 an inspector was alarmed enough by the inadequate safety situation on another of its loft conversions, that a Prohibition Notice was served to immediately stop all work and protect the workforce from potential harm.

On this new 2013 incident, there was once more a lack of measures to prevent falls from height. There were no work platforms or strong covers for floor holes. HSE found other inadequately protected fragile areas on the building site, as well as the one that the young man had fallen through. This was despite the fact that inspectors found plenty of suitable materials that could have been used as coverings.

Westminster magistrates handed out a relatively light fine of £6,000 to More Than Lofts Ltd., which also was charged £729 of costs. The firm admitted to breaching the Work at Height Regulations.

Spotlight on lofts

What should put other conversion firms on alert is this quote from HSE following the case’s result:

HSE’s Construction Division is carrying out a nationwide safety initiative on loft conversions during this year, focusing on falls from height and asbestos. Inspectors are making site visits and giving briefings to contractors with the aim of tackling poor standards in loft conversion work and also to raise awareness of the risks that this work involves.

The conversion sector is currently more buoyant than new build: and especially in London and the South East where property values have boomed, there is a big demand for house renovation, including loft conversions. Contractors need to be more careful than ever to ensure that their construction safety standards are up to the required standard.

The services of specialist building sector safety consultants McCormack Benson Health & Safety are reasonably-priced, and the advice that the hands-on consultants provide usually makes contractors better-organised, safer and actually more profitable.