A contractor has been prosecuted after ignoring repeated warnings from Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors to improve working standards on its construction sites.
The HSE took legal action against PVAD Ltd, after it identified a series of serious safety breaches during a number of inspections.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that when one of the firm’s construction sites in London was inspected by the HSE, numerous areas of the site had no edge protection to prevent its workers from falling four metres into the basement, while unsafe ‘homemade’ ramps were being used to allow access to some parts of the site.
Inspectors also found that the welfare facilities fell far below the legally required standard. The site’s WC did not flush and the washing arrangements on site consisted of a cold water outdoor tap and bucket, with no soap or towel.
A prohibition notice was served on PVAD Ltd, but later inspections found new work at height issues, which were so serious that all work had to be halted until the site was made safe.
An improvement notice was also served, requiring PVAD Ltd to improve its welfare facilities but the company breached the notice, as the improvements it made were found to be insufficient.
The HSE had previously inspected other PVAD Ltd sites several times in 2015 and 2016 leading to the directors being served with three improvement notices relating to welfare facilities and two formal letters highlighting work at height risks.
PVAD Ltd pleaded guilty to workplace safety breaches and was fined £51,334 and ordered to pay £1,525.50 in costs.
Following the conclusion of the hearing, HSE inspector, Adam Thompson, said: “PVAD Ltd were provided with clear written advice to help them make improvements. They failed to take note of this and continued to rely on a site manager with no formal health and safety training.
“On the three occasions the site was visited the workers were at such risk of falling that all work had to halt. It was just good fortune that no one was killed or seriously injured at the site.
“The standards were particularly inexcusable as the company had received clear warnings in the past. It speaks volumes that, even after being issued with three welfare improvement notices at other sites, they provided their workers at the new site with a non-flushing WC and an outside cold water tap and a bucket as washing facilities.”
Lara Murray, an Associate Solicitor with Palmers, who specialises in health and safety legal matters, said: “This case highlights the fact that HSE does not confine its inspections to untoward incident investigations. They can, and will, carry out random spot checks and, if a company is already under the spotlight for previous breaches, it should come as no surprise that repeat inspections will often follow.
“Any company which is concerned as to whether its workplace health and safety standards are compliant, should seek expert legal advice. A workplace health and safety audit and risk assessment will help identify any areas which require improvement and will certainly be far more cost effective than risking a court fine or, worse still, a serious incident involving injury to a worker.”
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