HSE fine as workers demolished flats by hand

31 August 2017

The owner of block of flats was prosecuted after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspection identified serious safety breaches while it was being demolished – including carrying out the demolition by hand.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that a member of the public raised concerns about the conditions at the site at 60 Pitcairn Road, Mitcham. Selliah Sivaneswaran was the owner of the property, but had failed to make appropriate appointments for the development project. The site had been inspected by HSE in October 2016 and the work halted due to the workers being exposed to a range of risks including exposure to asbestos, falling from height, and fire.

HSE revisited the site on 4 January 2017 and found the work had restarted while the site was still unsafe, despite enforcement notices being served and advice being provided. 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 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. The Court heard that two days before the sentencing hearing, HSE had to return to the site and take further action.

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 foreseeably large financial return from the project, Sivaneswaran put profit before safety and 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 (CDM) and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £1,421.20 in costs.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers 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”.

In another prosecution for safety breaches, a self-employed builder from Great Yarmouth has been sentenced after completing work at a domestic property which resulted in a gas explosion seriously injuring two people.

Norwich Crown Court heard how David Guymer had been employed to repair a faulty electric oven at a domestic property in Frederick Road, Great Yarmouth. David Guymer decided to replace the electric oven and after installation, the tenant, who was present at the time, queried the strange smell. David Guymer said that it was a normal smell for a new oven.

A few hours later the tenant lit a cigarette in the kitchen and a gas explosion occurred partly demolishing the house and severely injuring two of the occupants. One tenant suffered severe burns to her upper body. She spent four weeks in intensive care in a coma on a ventilator and suffered kidney failure. The other tenant suffered less severe burns to his arms and hands. A third person present escaped the blast with no injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the incident which occurred on 5 March 2015 found that the replacement oven was slightly larger than the one it replaced. The oven was fitted into the housing causing the gas supply to the hob separating.

David Janes Guymer, of Orwell Crescent, Belton Great Yarmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8 (2) of the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998, and was sentenced to complete 300 hours of unpaid work within a year and ordered to pay costs of £54,814.ends.


Re the first example of poor health and safety, I've seen the like quite often in Sri Lanka, with workers demolishing buildings using simple hand tools.

Frightening to see someone standing on top of wall 8m high, in flip flops, smashing the masonry to pieces with a sledgehammer aimed between their legs.

Eventually it gets done, but I have to wonder how often a worker slips and falls?

Charles, 3 September 2017

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