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25th November 2020

Ceiling Collapse onto Crowd Results in Fine

A gathering hall in Birmingham has appeared in court alongside a Principal Contractor whom it engaged to carry out refurbishments to the venue following a near miss during a school graduation ceremony.

The Incident

Around 400 guests attended the ceremony on 20th July 2017 at the Al-Miraj Banqueting Suite at a community mosque.

A suspended ceiling which was directly above the event space started to give way, eventually completely collapsing to the ground below.

Debris initially started falling onto the crowd below, however, an off duty fire officer who was in attendance managed to take control of an evacuation before the total failure of the ceiling.

Three children and three adults required medical treatment at the scene, however, the consequences could have been significantly worse without the quick thinking of the fire officer.

Why did the Ceiling Fail?

When investigated, it transpired that the suspended ceiling had been installed by a local contractor know as Peter Lakin some 17 months prior to the incident.

It was uncovered that no structural drawings or calculations had been submitted to the local building regulatory authorities for approval and that the contractor had taken guidance from a lighting layout plan.

This had led to the new suspended ceiling attaching to the original without any verification that it could take the excess load.

The fixings were found to have been under stress, eventually failing and leading to the collapse.

Sentencing

The venue itself pled guilty to breaching the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

They had failed to appoint a Principal Designer or Principal Contractor in writing, resulting in the responsibilities of both roles being retained by them.

This led to a competency void, resulting in the works not being completed to the required specification or standard.

The Jami Mosque & Islamic Centre was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £3,000 costs in respect of this.

Peter Lakin pled guilty to an offence under the Health & Safety and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was handed a four-month prison sentence suspended for twelve months along with being ordered to pay costs of £2,000.

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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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