Construction company and its director fined

A construction company and its director have been fined following the collapse of two large properties in Westminster.

Ethos Construction Solutions Ltd and its sole director Pritish Lad were prosecuted after an HSE investigation revealed a catalogue of serious issues.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that Ethos Construction was the principal contractor for a major project to refurbish a self-contained block of 14 buildings on Fulham Road.

The buildings had been empty for two years and extensive work was being carried out to alter them. On 23 January two adjoining properties collapsed without warning. As the incident occurred at the weekend there was nobody on site, and nobody was injured.

A Prohibition Notice was put in place to ban all work at the site until a competent structural engineer had surveyed the buildings and any necessary work identified had been carried out.

HSE inspectors identified a number of safety failings during their investigation, including:

  • Allowing existing structures to become weak and unstable;
  • No ‘temporary works plan’ in place for workers, and no checks on whether workers were sufficiently trained to undertake the work;
  • The poor installation and positioning of building props;
  • The storage of large piles of bricks on several floors of still-standing buildings, posing a potential over-loading risk; and
  • No assessment as to whether any evidence existed of a collapse risk.

In addition, the inspection identified:

  • An unsafe excavation of up to three metres deep running the length of the development site;
  • working-at-height risks;
  • Fire risks because of poorly-stored flammable materials;
  • Failure to provide suitable emergency exits; and
  • Insufficient fire detection and fire-fighting equipment.

Following the inspection, two further Prohibition Notices were issued on unprotected excavations and fire protection, respectively.

The court heard there was overwhelming evidence of dangerous working practices and poor planning and management, for which the principal contractor and director were ultimately responsible as duty-holders.

Buckinghamshire-based Ethos Construction Solutions Ltd was fined £14,000 and ordered to pay a further £9000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching regulations 27(2), 28(1), 31, 38(a), 40 and 41(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and one breach of regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Pritish Lad, of Middlesex, was fined £9500 and ordered to pay costs of £6750 after he pleaded guilty to breaching the same regulations as the company, excluding regulation 28(1) of the CDM Regulations 2007, under which he was not charged.