Birmingham landlord pays £4500 after fatal HMO fire
GBP25,000 fine after worker dies during school demolition
A boarding school has been fined £25,000 following the death of a worker while demolishing a building at the school site.
Moor Park Charitable Trust which runs Moor Park School has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive following the incident on 14 August 2007, when it arranged for a team of inexperienced building workers to demolish a large wooden classroom.
Shrewsbury Crown Court heard how the School had arranged for self-employed general buidling worker, Christopher Morris to carry out the work. Mr Morris asked four other self-employed building workers to assist in the demolition of the building, even though none of them hand any training or relevant experience.
The men removed integral supports within the classroom’s structure which caused the 2.4 tonne roof to collapse while five men were inside. 40-year-old Mark Evans suffocated when the roof fell on top of him. The other four men survived without serious injury thanks to the chance positioning of a dumper which had been parked inside part of the buidling, forming an escape route.
The Health and Safety Executive investigation following the incident found that the school had not made any reasonable enquiries into the competence of the men to undertake the work before demolition began. The HSE also found that the men had not effective plan in place before removing the integral supports.
Moor Park School was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay costs of £15,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
HSE inspector Nic Rigby said: “There were five men inside this building when it collapsed. Mr Evans paid the ultimate price for the school’s failings. But for sheer good fortune, all five of them could have been killed. But Mr Evans and the other workers should not have been put at such increased risk. Had Moor Park School taken reasonable steps to properly consider the demolition work, they would have appointed a competent and experienced contractor, and avoided the roof collapse.”
Inspector Rigby concluded: “This awful event and the prosecution of the school must send a very clear message to all those who commission construction or demolition work. It must be properly planned and carried out by those with the experience and competence to do so.”
Man drowned after driving off unprotected pier
A Scottish local council has been fined £20,000 after a man drowned when he drove off the unprotected edge of a coastal car park and fell in to the sea.
On 17 September 2007, Duncan MacGillivray, 75, was attempting to move his car out of a car-park space at Coal Pier, Dunoon. The car park was operated by Argyll and Bute Council and was positioned on a stone jetty, which was formerly used as a dock.
It is believed that Mr MacGillivray accidentally put his car into forward gear, rather than reverse, to exit a parking bay. The vehicle mounted the edging, and, as there was no protective barrier, it fell approximately three metres into the sea below. Mr MacGillivray’s car was upside down in the water and he drowned after becoming trapped inside.
The Police initially investigated the incident and the HSE did not become aware of the case until July 2008. HSE inspector Mike Orr revealed that there were barriers around two of the three sides of the car park, but there was none in place in the area where Mr MacGillivray had parked.
Inspector Orr said: “Mr MacGillivray died in tragic and traumatic circumstances, ultimately drowning in the sea below the pier. A simple risk assessment would have identified the clear risks of an unprotected sheer drop into the sea at the edge of a car park – but, sadly, the council failed to do this.
“The council was responsible for the maintenance and operation of this charging public car park. When it changed the use of the pier from a commercial site, it should have quickly identified any risks to members of the public. It’s simply not acceptable that this didn’t happen.”
Argyll and Bute Council appeared at Dunoon Sheriff Court on 18 August and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) and s33(1) of the HSWA 1974. There were no costs awarded in addition to the fine as the case was heard in Scotland.
The council had no previous related convictions and told the court that it had taken immediate action to remove the danger. It carried out a risk assessment, which led to barriers put in place on the unprotected edge. It also carried out checks at all of the other waterfront car parks that it operates to ensure adequate edge protection was in place.
A statement from the council, said: “Argyll and Bute Council deeply regrets that this accident was able to happen, and the distress that Mr MacGillivray’s death brought to his family and friends.
“Actions carried out to prevent a recurrence before the car park reopened included the installation of a traffic barrier and pedestrian hand rails.
“All other Argyll and Bute car parks located on or next to piers were also re-examined to ensure that no similar problems existed, and all were found to be safe.”
Don’t neglect the common areas
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Fire Safety Order) came into effect in October 2006 and is an all-encompassing piece of primary fire safety legislation for England and Wales. Similar legislation has also been enacted in Scotland under the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and in Northern Ireland under the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2006. The Fire Safety Order replaced a host of acts, regulations and bye laws which had been introduced over many years.
Local fire authorities had always been geared up to prescriptively administer fire safety in certain designated premises under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 through the fire certification process. Under the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997 (As Amended) the authorities became validators of fire risk assessments carried out by building occupiers. This process has now been carried over to the Order and includes a requirement to undertake risk assessments on the common areas of residential buildings.
Why were these common areas included in the new Fire Safety Order? The government were obviously aware of the considerable amount of new apartment blocks being constructed, many of which were probably built to satisfy the new buy-to-let market in the property boom. However, the government also appeared to acknowledge that there was still a great deal of older housing stock throughout the country and as time passed, these older properties were going to deteriorate further. It may have been a concern that the standard of fire safety in them would also worsen to the point that a number of them could possibly be classed as dangerous.
Maintenance of life safety systems can be another issue. Where interlinked hard wired smoke alarms, fire alarm and emergency lighting systems have been provided at the time of construction, testing, maintenance and servicing may have been ignored – sometimes for many years. This is not uncommon and equally applies to a smaller but significant number of commercial, multi-occupied premises, many of which contain different purpose groups, e.g. sleeping accommodation above commercial/retail premises.
This is probably the very reason why the common areas of such properties were included within the Fire Safety Order. They had previously escaped fire safety regulation or enforcement, unlike houses in multiple occupation where safety was usually enforced under the Housing Act. Nowadays, safety can also be enforced under the Fire Safety Order and under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System.
The basic requirements of the Fire safety Order are that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment should be carried out within the common areas. The Responsible Person – who could be the landlord, managing agent, limited company set up to administer the freehold, or any other person in day to day control of the property – should then introduce general fire precautions which are reasonable and proportionate to the risks identified.
Asbestos disturbed at primary school
A building firm has been fined after failing to warn its employees that asbestos was present, despite having a detailed report about the location of the asbestos.
Stratford-upon-Avon Magistrates Court heard how Greswolde Construction Ltd was carrying out building work on an extension at Rokeby Primary School in Rugby. Three employees were carrying out the work when they disturbed an area containing asbestos.
The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted the company after finding that although the company had a detailed Type 3 Asbestos survey detailing the location of the asbestos they failed to communicate this to their employees. The survey also detailed the fact that children were occupying adjacent classrooms, however the company continued to give the go ahead to their workers.
The investigation also found that the workers had not been informed of the presence of asbestos and had not received any asbestos awareness training or protection.
The company was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,268 after pleading guilty to a breach of regulation 10(1) and one of 11(1)(a) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
HSE inspector Paul Cooper said: “The dangers of asbestos are well known in the building industry so for the managers of Greswolde Construction not to inform their employees of its presence shows a complete disregard for their safety and wellbeing. What makes it worse is that this work was being carried out in a primary school where young children were in the next room.”
Inspector Cooper concluded: “We can’t stress enough how important it is for anyone carrying out building work to obtain the proper asbestos surveys and then act upon them.”
Holidaymakers’ cars destroyed in blaze at Stansted airport
A fire that gutted at least 19 cars at Stansted airport’s long stay car park was due to an electrical fault, investigators believe.
The blaze, which took around 20 firefighters to put out, was reported around 2am on 30 August.
Crews used four hose reels and one main jet to get the fire under control after it spread through cars that were parked close to one another.
Initially the airport’s fire service attended the scene alone but was forced to call for back up from Essex Fire and Rescue Service.
It was extinguished just after 4am. A spokesman from the county’s fire service told info4fire the incident was not being treated as suspicious.
However, he said it was “hard to tell” in which car the fire had started because of the scale of damage. Investigators have narrowed the possible vehicles down to three.