A Kent construction company and its managing director have been prosecuted after both displayed a ‘shocking disregard’ for workers’ safety at a demolition site in Surrey.

The workers at the site were exposed to ‘appalling risks’ of falling from an unprotected roof and from the presence of dangerous asbestos material.

Conditions at the site in Chobham Road, Woking, were spotted by a passing Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector, who immediately served a prohibition notice halting the work going on at roof level.

An investigation followed and a prosecution brought against Daniel Lautier and his firm, ICG Construction Management Services Ltd, both of Sevenoaks in Kent, for numerous safety breaches.

Redhill Magistrates were (9 Dec) told that the HSE inspector had been driving past on 5 June 2014 when he saw the two-storey, part-demolished house. On top of it, standing at the edges of where a pitched room had been, were three workers. There was no edge protection or fall prevention measures in place despite the dangers to the men of a six to seven metres’ fall.

Roof tiles and masonry had been thrown from the structure as it was being demolished.  HSE served a further prohibition notice to ensure that an asbestos survey was carried out prior to any further demolition taking place.

Asbestos was found on site and had it not been removed could have caused serious long term and irreversible ill health to on-site workers and passers by who may have been exposed the dust from its demolition.  HSE also required a demolition plan to be drawn up, and for workers to halt the uncontrolled and unsafe throwing of building materials to ground level.

HSE’s investigation found a catalogue of failures on the part of Mr Lautier and ICG Construction Services: –

  • there was no proper system of work drawn up for the demolition of the property, which belonged to Mr Lautier;
  • men were working at a dangerous height with no safety measures to protect them from falls;
  • demolition was ad-hoc and work bore little resemblance to accepted practice in the industry;
  • there was inadequate supervision and planning;
  • welfare facilities on site at one point were non-existent.

Daniel Lautier of Harrison Way, Sevenoaks, Kent, admitted two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and his firm, ICG Construction Services, pleaded guilty to one breach of the same Act and a further breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Lautier was fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,044. No separate penalty was imposed for his company.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Russell Beckett, who investigated, said:

“The disregard for health and safety shown by Daniel Lautier and ICG was shocking, and exposed workers and others to appalling risks.

“The management of health and safety was non-existent even at the most basic level. There were so many failures on site. Many were obvious but all contributed to making the site one of most inadequate and unprofessional I have ever seen.

“Demolition of a property requires planning and that includes a survey to establish whether asbestos is present. The demolition industry has vastly improved its health and safety record but Mr Lautier decided to cut corners and to try to do it himself.  If this demolition had been simply carried out using an excavator machine then there would have been very few risks involved.”

For information and advice on safe demolition practices, visithttp://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/demolition.htm