Dangerous demolition work leads to a roof fall


As health & safety professionals know, this is the year in which HSE is laying great stress on improving standards within the repair and refurbishment sector of building safety.

Therefore it is worrying when cases like this emerge where there was a total absence of basic good practice.

RHP Merchants and Construction Ltd. had to demolish an old lodge building at Beach Cliff, Penarth, Wales, as part of its contract under which it was the principal contractor for a redevelopment project to build private and commercial units – flats, town houses and commercial space.

At the single-storey lodge, Malcolm Milne (59) was removing roof tiles with a co-worker, on 30th January 2013. He was standing upon a beam which collapsed under him, causing him to fall some 8 feet to the ground.

Mr. Milne was hospitalised and had to use crutches for 5 months afterwards. Even now, some 22 months later, he cannot work in the building trade.

What went wrong?

It is almost as easy to ask what did not go wrong. The facts as established in the HSE investigation can be summarised thus:

  • The two workers had not been trained in demolition
  • Mr. Milne had not received training about working at height
  • The contractor failed to carry out a risk assessment prior to the beginning of work
  • There was no personal protective equipment or primary safety measures to prevent a fall
  • There was an absence of site management or supervision due to holidays (a senior site engineer and the project manager were both away that week)

The room into which a worker fell 

The result was that at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court, RHP Merchants and Construction Ltd. of Cardiff had to plead guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Its fine was £20,000 and it was forced to pay £9,414 of HSE prosecution costs.

The responsible HSE Inspector was David Kirkpatrick. His comments were:

“Mr Milne’s injuries could have been much worse and he could even have been killed in the fall, which was entirely preventable and would not have happened had the work been better planned, managed and monitored. A risk assessment would have identified the hazards and a proper plan of work would have mitigated the risks of any fall.”

Clearly the requirement to plan a safe system of working was completely ignored or overlooked in this case, and it is hard to imagine a project manager on quite a big project to let this basic issue remain unaddressed.

At McCormack Benson Health & Safety we know that even the most simple issues can let building projects down: and that is why our construction-trained safety consultants act as an independent set of eyes and ears, helping you to keep out of the courts as well as safeguarding your workforce.