Building Firm In Court For Health Risk

Absence Of Water At A Building Site Put Workers' Health At Risk

28.08.2014

A Stockport-based building business has received a fine from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after workers were put at risk of suffering severe burns and lead poisoning.

CSC Construction - which has since gone into administration - was refurbishing a row of terraced properties in the Openshaw area of Greater Manchester between May and September 2013, a project that was overseen by company director Roland Couzens.

Labourers were working to replace the kitchens and bathrooms in the houses, but there was no hot or warm water supply available in any of these rooms.

This meant that during the three-month period that the job was being carried out, bricklayers, plasterers and roofers were put at risk of suffering burns from the materials they were using, as there was no hot water for them to wash off substances such as cement and plaster.

In addition, roofers working with lead could have ended up with poisoning if residues were left on their skin, as they were not able to wash properly.

Due to the nature of the work, large amounts of potentially dangerous dust were present too, once again meaning the absence of water to wash this away put the workers' health at risk.

The need for hot water on site was highlighted in the firm's construction plan, but despite visiting the project weekly, Mr Couzens did not install a supply until after the HSE had carried out its own inspection.

In light of this, the case went to Trafford Magistrates' Court, where Mr Couzens was fined £2,000 after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Additionally, the director was ordered to pay £3,102 in legal costs.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly commented: "Mr Couzens was brought in to oversee the project, including the health and safety of workers, but he failed to ensure this basic legal requirement was met.

"This case should act as a warning to companies and directors that we will not hesitate to prosecute if they do not act to ensure the health and safety of their employees," he added.

Expert Opinion
It is a vital part of health and safety to always ensure that workers have the means to carry out the jobs expected of them in a safe and efficient manner. The failure in this case to ensure the provision of hot water led to significant risks which could have ultimately caused significant illness and injury to those involved in work at this site.

"While planning was carried out prior to this work, it is worrying that the need for hot water was identified but not acted upon until after the HSE had visited the area. Employers simply cannot ignore key issues which are identified in assessments and it is vital that lessons are learned from this case to ensure that the same issues are never seen again in the future."
Stephen Nye, Partner

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