Safety failings see 6 meter beam fall onto streets of London

This month, two construction firms have been sentenced after a six-metre metal beam fell from the sixth floor of a building, striking and injuring a worker on a third floor scaffold before crashing onto a busy street in the City of London in 2011.

The 32kg beam hit a 38-year-old building worker while he was on an access platform, breaking six ribs and fracturing three vertebrae. The man, a self-employed sub-contractor, was in hospital for a week and unable to work for two months.

He was working on the construction of the seven-storey South Place Hotel in Wilson Street, EC2, when the incident happened on 5 October 2011. McClaren Construction Ltd of Brentwood, Essex, was the principal contractor and John Doyle Construction Ltd, of Welwyn Garden City, which is now in liquidation, was a sub-contractor.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated, prosecuted both companies for safety breaches and both were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on the 10 December.

The court was told that several John Doyle workers were dismantling the temporary structural framework on the sixth floor of the building when they lost control of the six-metre beam. It fell down the side of the building and hit the worker, who was on a mobile work platform three storeys below, and then landed in Wilson Street, a busy public highway on one side of the site.

HSE found that John Doyle Construction failed to identify and implement reasonable control measures that should have been in place to prevent any beam from falling in that way. McClaren Construction approved their sub-contractor’s work method statement and also did not identify that controls were lacking.

In addition, neither company took any steps to make sure that no one was working below the areas where the framework structure was being dismantled.

McClaren Construction Ltd, of Kings Road, Brentwood, Essex, was fined £22,500 with £14,854 in costs after admitting a similar breach of the same Act.

The court indicated that had the firm not been in liquidation, a £50,000 fine would have been imposed. However, John Doyle Construction Ltd, registered with Administrators at Temple Quay, Bristol, was fined a nominal £1 with no order for costs after being found guilty of a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Eileen Gascoigne said:

“What happened at the building site that day had the potential to kill one or more workers and members of the public passing close by. It was entirely good fortune that the consequences were not even graver.  The incident was entirely preventable. The risks were foreseeable and the measures that needed to be in place are well-known in the industry and were readily implemented afterwards.

“As an experienced principal contractor, McClaren failed to properly check the controls that John Doyle proposed for the work, and failed to implement their own procedures for ensuring there was no risk to either other contractors, or members of the public, from the work taking place.

“John Doyle was also an experienced contractor and yet it too failed on an important safety issue.”

For safety information in the sector, visit the HSE website

Health and Safety Failings


December 2014 NEWSLETTER


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Health and Safety Failings

Are they responsible for the tragic deaths in Knightsbridge, London?

Two men died and six other people were injured after part of a balcony collapsed in west London when the railings gave way of a building at Cadogan Square, Knightsbridge, Friday 21st November 2014.

Eye witness’ at the scene said that the workmen were trying to pull a couch up to the first-floor apartment with ropes, it was apparently too heavy and the fence broke off and fell on the workmen below.

SME’s Health and Safety failings

Health and safety standards are not being met by more than half of small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK.

The research was carried out earlier this year on behalf of workplace safety specialists Seton by YouGov.  This was a seasonal campaign intended to boost awareness of health and safety

Key findings showed that 22 per cent of employers that took part think there is no one, or just one individual, at their workplace that has received any type of workplace health and safety training.

Legionnaires Outbreak

Cooling towers at a fertiliser plant were the likely source of an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that has killed ten people and infected over 336 since erupting nearly 2 weeks ago.  This makes it one of the world’s largest ever outbreaks with the World Health Organization declaring this “a major public health emergency”.

To understand more about this case and hear from our water safety expert Phil Lonsdale, please read more.

Myth-busting by the HSE

The HSE Myth Busters Challenge Panel provides a mechanism to independently challenge potentially disproportionate or inaccurate advice or decisions, made in the name of health and safety.

“We think that communicating these decisions will help all our clients with a better insight into the ongoing ‘perception v’s reality’ arguments which appear in the media from time to time”.
Phil Jones

Passenger’s coffee had to be placed on table by train trolley attendant

Enquirer was on a train and ordered a coffee off the trolley service. They were seated in the window seat and had a passenger next to them. The attendant poured a coffee and put a lid on the insulated cup. The enquirer reached across to take the cup from him but the trolley assistant insisted that he could not do this. He explained that health and safety regulations stated he could not hand him the cup, and he had to physically place it on the table.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

University’s hot air vents covered with anti-homeless cages

A university has covered hot air vents with anti-homeless cages citing health & safety reasons.

Read the Panel’s decision HERE.

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Gas safety neglect lands property company in court

Lives have been put at risk by repeated failings to ensure that the gas boilers in the homes, rented by a property firm in Richmond, were safe and free from dangerous defects.

Barclay Ltd, of south west London were investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), after a complaint from a registered gas engineer discovered that a gas boiler in a rental in Hampstead had not been properly maintained. It was found that Barclay Ltd had failed to have the boiler checked for safety between 2004 and 2013!

Boiler safety checks are a legal, annual requirement.

On December 1st, Westminster Magistrates heard that an improvement notice was served to Barclay Ltd by HSE requiring it to complete the statutory landlord safety checks, but the work was not done until two weeks after the notice had expired.

The investigation by HSE also identified another Barclay property in Hampstead where there had also been no safety inspection of the gas boiler carried out within 12 months.

Barclay Ltd of Kings Road, near Richmond Park, admitting two breaches of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and a charge of non-compliance with an enforcement notice.   They were fined a total of £6,500 and ordered to pay £1,822 in costs.  Company director Mr Jonathan Silver appeared in court to enter the guilty pleas.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Anne Gloor said:

“We found that Barclay Limited owned more than 10 properties in Richmond, Hampstead and Willesden, which involved around 50 tenants. The firm failed to maintain and check the gas appliances in all these properties.  As a result, it put the lives of the residents, their neighbours, and their own properties in danger and chose to ignore the warnings and enforcement action from HSE.

“Landlords have a statutory duty to carry out annual safety inspections on the gas appliances in their properties to ensure they remain safe to use. A tenant should be provided with a copy of the landlord’s gas safety record to show that this has been done.”


Russell Kramer, Chief Executive of Gas Safe Register, commented:

“It is important that landlords know their duties and tenants know their rights. A landlord must be able to provide a gas safety record for the property, showing that the gas appliances have been safety checked by a Gas Safe registered engineer in the last 12 months. “Tenants can also sign up to a free reminder service at to make sure their landlord or managing agent is carrying out their duties of getting an annual gas safety check.”

See the HSE website for more information.

Find out how we can assist your in being legally compliant.

Blunders leading to Fire Risk

A contractor was not provided with proper guidance during the construction of a new timber frame care home in Hemlington, resulting in a firm of architects being fined.

Architect Mario Minchella Ltd had not given the contractors relevant information about the flammability of the timber frame used in the construction of the new building in October 2012.  A routine HSE inspection of the work found that the separation distance between the new timber frame building under construction and an adjacent occupied care home was insufficient.

Had the timber frame caught fire there was a serious risk that the radiant heat would cause the fire to spread to the care home, putting the lives of residents and staff inside at risk.  HSE found that there was nothing in the design specification produced by Mario Minchella Ltd to alert construction workers erecting the timber frame to the additional fire risk it created.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court was told that

“ would have been reasonable for Mario Minchella Ltd to have specified in its design that fire-resistant timber be used or that it considered the sequence of construction so that the timber frame of each floor was clad before the next one was constructed, reducing the amount of timber exposed at any one time.”


Mario Minchella Ltd, of Washington, Tyne and Wear, was fined a total of £1,500 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the CDM regulations.

Speaking after the case, HSE inspector Andrea Robbins said

“Timber frames will burn faster and more completely when the panels are incomplete and not yet protected by the usual internal fire-resistant plasterboard and external cladding.  When burning, exposed timber frame structures generate a lot of radiant heat and there have been a number of large and serious fires which have affected neighbouring properties with devastating consequences, though thankfully without loss of life.”

“There was a real danger here that had there been a fire it could have spread to the adjacent care home, putting the lives of the residents and staff inside at risk. Mario Minchella Ltd failed to consider this risk in its design and failed to provide sufficient information to the contractors to enable them to carry out the construction safely.”