Two construction companies have been handed more than £20,000 in fines and costs for repeated health and safety breaches dubbed “appaling” by inspectors.
Principal contractor Kubrik Homes was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,426.50 while subcontractor Bellway Developments was also handed an £8,000 fine and ordered to pay £2,384.50 of costs.
The prosecution related to a site in the London Borough of Merton which had already been served with four Prohibition Notices, one of which was breached while Health and Safety Executive inspectors were on site.
City of London Magistrates’ Court heard there had been no safe access to the first floor under construction at the St Mary’s Road site in Wimbledon.
Instead, there was a makeshift “staircase” formed from a bag of sand and piles of blocks, leading to the roof of a hut.
The first floor was accessed from the hut roof via wooden planks, spanning the gap between them. There was no edge protection to prevent falls.
On a visit to the site, HSE inspectors found a wooden gangway built the day before to provide access to the first floor was inadequate.
There was also a 2.5 metre-deep excavation with no precautions taken to prevent people falling into it or the sides of the excavation collapsing in on anyone working within it.
The HSE found uneven work areas and a site “littered with obstructions and trip hazards”.
It said building materials had been stacked excessively high and stored haphazardly.
And it found welfare facilities on-site were also extremely poor, while the toilet was filthy and had a leaking cold water supply.
HSE served three Prohibition Notices to Kubik Homes ordering all work on site to cease until health and safety standards had been improved.
On returning to the site, HSE inspectors found an attempt had been made to erect edge protection around the first floor, but it was inadequate.
Representatives of neither company had sufficient training, experience or a recognised qualification in site management, they said.
While inspectors were on site, two men were seen walking on the first floor in breach of one of the Prohibition Notices.
It became clear that work was still continuing in an unsafe manner, so another Prohibition Notice was served. This ordered all work on the site to stop until competent site management was put in place.
HSE’s inspector Loraine Charles said:
“Although there was no incident, the potential danger to the workers was very high.
“Conditions on this site were simply appalling. This is a shocking example of bad management of a construction site and it is a miracle that no one was injured.
“Both these companies failed to understand the nature of their duties under health and safety law and failed to sufficiently improve conditions on the site despite repeated interventions by the HSE. We will not hesitate to prosecute companies that behave in this way.”