Dangerous Basement Builders Fined

Lawyer Speaks Out On Construction Industry Safety


A building company has been ordered to pay over £18,000 for ignoring a notice to stop constructing a basement without enough supports to prevent the ground collapsing or prevent people falling in the hole.

JAS Truscott & Son, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, had excavated a sandy ballast pit three metres below the foundations of a mews house project in London's Belgravia in June 2008.

A court heard that despite the company receiving clear advice about supports and a prohibition notice to stop the work, builders continued to excavate without taking action to shore up the ground or stop people falling in.

JAS pleaded guilty at the City of London Magistrates' Court to breaching Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, Regulation 31(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

The court imposed fines of £6,500, £1,000 and £1,000 respectively for the breaches, and also ordered the company to pay costs of £9,526.29.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) warned building contractors involved in constructing basements to make sure they plan the work properly and use sufficient supports when excavating the foundations of houses.

HSE inspector Kevin Shorten said: "Basement conversions are significant civil engineering projects. They are not akin to normal extension work. If insufficient methods are used to support underpin excavations, then people's lives can be put in jeopardy."

Copyright © Press Association 2009

David Urpeth from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “I welcome the fine imposed in this case.

“It is very worrying that any organisation would choose to ignore a prohibition notice issued by the health and safety executive.

The construction industry is the industrial sector in which a worker is most likely to be killed in a work accident. As such, this case is even more troubling.”