Firms must plan structural work properly, HSE warns

25 January 2013

Posted by Samuel Couratin

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has reminded construction firms that they must thoroughly plan any structural work before allowing their employees to get started.

Its latest warning comes after a Welsh company was fined £7,500 and ordered to pay the same in costs following an investigation by the health and safety regulator.

The organization pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 after a contractor suffered serious injuries on one of its sites in 2008.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard how the victim and a colleague were using a pneumatic drill to break up concrete on the first storey of a former hospital building.

The floor spilt as they drilled away and they were both sent tumbling to the ground floor.

A floor slab then fell down and crushed the man, leaving him with life-threatening internal injuries.

According to the HSE, the site developer had failed to ensure the safety of the contractors by not planning the structural work beforehand.

HSE inspector Chris Wilcox said: "People carrying out building refurbishment must ensure that structural work is properly planned and advice sought from a competent person, for example a structural engineer, at an early stage.

"The consequences in failing to recognize the risks inherent in this type of work can be significant. This was a major incident that could easily have been fatal."

Such incidents are far more common than the HSE would ideally like.

Last month, the organization reiterated the importance of health and safety as it released its annual workplace accident figures.

They showed that 173 workers were killed in occupation incidents in 2011/12, which was only two fewer than in 2010/11.

More than 23,000 people also suffered major injuries at work last year, which is obviously a huge cause for concern.

Construction remains a high-risk industry, with 49 deaths last year, while agriculture and manufacturing are also dangerous sectors.

The former saw 33 deaths last year and 31 people lost their lives in the latter.

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