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21st January 2020

Property Management Firm Fined £1.3M

What’s Happened?

A property management company has been fined £1.3milion after a woman was fatally hit by a wooden panel as she walked down a street.

This case serves as a reminder to ensure that regular inspections are carried out of properties. Where faults are found, undertake remedial action as and when necessary to keep the premises in good order.

Maintenance issues

The accident occurred because a disused water tank housing on the roof was left to deteriorate. The company hadn’t taken into account the fact that the housing, whilst no longer in use, could fall apart in a storm.

After the incident, the City of Wolverhampton Council commissioned an examination of the tank and its housing. It was found that due to a lack of maintenance, there was wet rot and corroded defective fixings on the housing of the tank. This meant that the force of the wind was able to blow one of the panels from its fixtures.

It was established that for the entire time the property management firm had held responsibility for the building, the housing for the water tank had not been inspected or maintained. It’s common practice to paint exposed softwood every three years to prevent rot, yet when a forensic paint expert was called in to determine when the wooden fixing pads were last painted, it was confirmed to be 20 years. This meant that the supporting timber had become rotten and other essential elements of the structure were noted to be crumbling to the touch.

In court

The managing agent pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc and was fined £1.3 million, plus costs of £375,000.

As this case illustrates, even parts of a building no longer in use can cause injury so they must be maintained. Ensure that all areas are covered by your inspection programme and that staff carrying out the checks know to report all concerns, even those which relate to disused plant etc.

Appoint Lighthouse As Your Health & Safety Competent Person

The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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