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12th September 2017

Property developer landed with £200k fine for CDM breaches

The owner of a block of flats was recently fined £200,000 after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection identified serious CDM breaches while it was being demolished.

What happened?

The HSE were initially given a tip-off from a member of the public who raised concerns about the conditions at the site at 60 Pitcairn Road, Mitcham.

When an HSE Inspector visited the site they issue prohibition notices to halt the work as workers were clearly being exposed to a range of risks including exposure to asbestos, falling from height, and fire. Additionally, the site owner and property developer had failed to make appropriate appointments for the development project as required under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

The wrong decision

HSE revisited the site on several months later and found the work had restarted while the site was still unsafe, despite enforcement notices being served, and advice being provided to the developer. The demolition continued to be carried out by hand with workers climbing onto the unguarded roof and throwing the debris down.

Workers were at risk of falling up to four metres through holes in the floors and a partly-demolished staircase. No welfare facilities had been provided and there was a significant risk of fire with the workers not being able to escape.

In an almost ridiculous state of affairs, the Court heard just two days before the sentencing hearing HSE had to return again to the site and take yet further action.

In court

The project involved the demolition of the old flats and the construction of four one-bedroom flats and two two-bedroom flats on a site bought for £115,000 in 2001. The Court heard that despite the large financial return from the project, the developer had clearly put profit before safety, paid cash in hand to untrained workers, did not engage a site manager, and provided none of the legally-required site documentation.

Selliah Sivguru Sivaneswaran of Harlyn Drive, Pinner pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) and 4(1) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £1,421.20 in costs.

The HSE inspector involved in the case commented after the hearing: “Mr Sivaneswaran was a commercial client as he was carrying out work as part of a business. When he failed to appoint a principal contractor, their duties fell on him.

“Thanks to a member of the public reporting the dangerous conditions, HSE was able to take action. It was just good fortune that no one had been killed at the site. Instead of taking the support and advice provided by HSE, Mr Sivaneswaran continued to let the workers operate in appalling conditions where they were at risk of being killed. He did not even provide them with a WC or washing facilities”.

 

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