Housebuilder in court for unsafe work and poor worker welfare


Construction standards in Britain today rightly require decent standards of facilities for building workers, as well as safe working practices. This is a case where neither requirement was achieved.

K W Bell Group Ltd was building 5 new homes at Hudson Lane, Buckshaft, near Cinderford in Gloucestershire, from April to December 2013. Owner Keith Bell (74) was personally managing the site.

Unsupported excavation

HSE inspectors observed excavation work taking place on 11th December to dig a trench for a new sewer; and they were very worried by it, because there was a lack of side support in the form of battening or other props to prevent the sides collapsing, contrary to CDM Regulations. They wanted to see methods like a trench box being employed: and in the absence of this there was a clear risk to the employees on site. It was apparent that this was not a new problem and had been going on since work began.

The result was a Prohibition Notice to stop the digging until a proper supporting method was provided.

Insanitary conditions

Workers were found to have no access to hot running water or proper facilities in which to wash properly.

The site lacked a toilet for the builders: and yet work had been going on for months like this.

As the inspector said, “construction workers need access to hot running water and washing facilities in order to remove potentially harmful dirt and dust before they eat and drink. It is a clear legal requirement, and both parties (Mr. Bell and his firm) should have known that as experienced developers.”

This is a aspect of sites that has perhaps been neglected until recently, but it is clear that HSE is now targeting worker welfare with Improvement Notices being served on many sites, including this one.

Mr. Bell acknowledged his responsibility and culpability at Cheltenham Magistrates Court, where he received a fine of £9,000 and £3,502 in costs. The fines for his company K W Bell Group Ltd (based at Whimsey Industrial Estate, Steam Mills Road, Cinderford) totalled £4,000 plus costs of £765 after entering a plea of guilty to two breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The most serious of these came under Regulation 31(1) that says:

“All practicable steps shall be taken, where necessary to prevent danger to any person, including, where necessary, the provision of supports or battering, to ensure that (a) any excavation or part of an excavation does not collapse; (b) no material from a side or roof of, or adjacent to, any excavation is dislodged or falls; and (c) no person is buried or trapped in an excavation by material which is dislodged or falls.”