Construction firm and director fined after house collapses

The collapsed wall

A construction firm and its director have been fined £6,000 after the external wall of a house they were working on collapsed.

Servotec Ltd was contracted to build a house in Fallowfield, Manchester in 2020. But an exterior wall collapsed while they were working on it, leading the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to visit the site in September that year.

No one was injured in the accident, which HSE inspector Mike Lisle said was “fortunate”.

In its investigation, the HSE issued a prohibition notice to Servotec after it found the roof on the property was unstable. The contractor, which is based in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in south-west Manchester, also failed to provide a temporary works design for the project.

On top of that, the HSE issued Servotec with improvement notices for the poor welfare on site and the insufficient asbestos survey undertaken by the firm. Servotec was then issued with another prohibition notice when the HSE found “another structural problem” on the site during a second visit a few days later.

Although Servotec complied with the enforcement action, HSE said the company and its director Shaun Brae “were not forthcoming” with information requested “over a number of months”.

On a third visit in February 2021, the HSE found additional health and safety breaches, including the “inadequate prevention of exposure to silica dust while cutting roof tiles”. It issued Servotec with another prohibition notice and another improvement notice.

The HSE found that the firm failed to comply with the final improvement notice and there were “significant risks” at the site “from start to finish”. Those included structural safety issues, working at height problems and welfare issues.

Brae also failed to comply with the notice as he was directly served with all the prohibition notices and demonstrated “persistent poor attitude and lack of accountability” throughout the process.

Servotec Limited, of Mauldeth Road West, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1), Section 3(1) and Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £5,000.

Shaun Brae of Repton Avenue, Ashford, Kent, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1), Section 3(1) and Section 33(1)(g) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, by virtue of 37(1) of the act. He was fined £1,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 in additional costs.

The HSE’s Lisle said: “This was a very serious incident, and it is fortunate nobody was injured as a result of the collapse or any of the subsequent failings.

“Where contractors demonstrate persistent poor health and safety and ignore notices served, HSE will not hesitate to take necessary action. Directing minds playing a significant role in a company’s failings will also be held accountable, as was the case here.”

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