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Recent Prosecutions round-up - November 2014

The prosecution cases detailed below highlight the importance of traffic management on site, safe systems of work and the identification and communication about live services.

Case 1: Working in the loft space

Principal contractors and contractors working in loft spaces should be aware of a prosecution in September 2014.

The prosecution followed the 8m fall of a worker through the fragile plasterboard ceiling on to the stairs below. Despite not suffering significant injuries his employer was fined £6,000 plus costs after being found guilty of not taking suitable action to prevent falls such as using platforms or robust covers for fragile materials and holes in the loft floor.

The Work at Height Regulations clearly require work on or near fragile surfaces to be avoided. Where this isn't possible the regulations require the use of platforms, coverings, guard-rails or similar to prevent the risk of falling through fragile surfaces. Contractors such as plumbers, electricians, MVHR installers and insulation installers must ensure they have a safe system of work in place to access and work in loft spaces. Principal contractors should check the safe system of work is in place and must ensure the safe system of work can be fully implemented on site.

Case 2: Identification of live services

A developer has been prosecuted after a serious accident in which a worker was thrown across a room after hitting a live main electricity cable with his angle grinder.

The worker was stripping out pipes and cables from the partially demolished building in preparation for its conversion into student flats. The site team had been told all the services into the building had been disconnected and so the worker had no way of knowing the cable he was cutting was live.

The developer was fined £2,000 plus costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the CDM Regulations having failed to ensure the services were disconnected despite having told the site manager that it had. Under CDM developers must ensure that information about electricity, gas and other services is passed on to the contractor to enable services to be properly identified and located.

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Case 3: Traffic management

A major housebuilder has been fined £100,000 plus costs of a further £100,000 after being found guilty of failing to adequately manage and control the movement of vehicles on site.

The prosecution followed an accident on a site where the builder was constructing 159 new homes. The injured person was delivering a mortar silo to site and was run over by a nine tonne dumper as he crossed the site road back to his lorry. As a result of the accident he suffered life changing injuries including severe brain damage and multiple fractures. He is unlikely to work again.

The investigation identified a lack of proper traffic management at the site with no proper provision for the separation of pedestrians and vehicles using the site roads in several areas of the site.

This very serious accident highlights the importance of having a well-thought-out traffic management plan that covers the whole site. Pedestrian segregation is often incomplete or observed to stop half way around the site. The principal contractor must ensure that wherever pedestrians and vehicles come in to close proximity there is adequate protection in place.