A Lancashire-based construction company has been fined for a series of safety breaches, including failing to fence off building sites from the public and failing to provide adequate welfare facilities for their workers.
The prosecution follows an unannounced visit by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to the site run by Paddle Homes at St. Athan, Vale of Glamorgan in December 2008.
When he arrived at the site, HSE Inspector Liam Osborne discovered inadequate or missing fencing to keep the public away from construction work.
There were also unsuitable sanitary and welfare facilities for workers on the site despite the sub-zero temperatures. There was a dirty portable toilet with no washing facilities, and workers were expected to eat, get changed and shelter in a dirty, unheated caravan.
Paddle, which is based in Blackburn, pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 when they appeared at Barry Magistrates' Court. They were fined a total of £10,050 and ordered to pay costs of £13,224.45
HSE Inspectors throughout the country have found such poor working conditions that multiple prohibition and Improvement notices have been issued to Paddle since 2005. These were for dangerous scaffolding, poor site welfare, unprotected excavations and failures to secure and fence their sites.
After the case, Osborne said: "Paddle left its workers with the most appalling working conditions - the sort of things you might have expected to see in the 19th Century not the 21st Century. There was no clean and appropriate toilet facility and workers were often left in the freezing cold or in wet conditions.
"The site was also very unsecure. During my inspection, children were playing nearby and could easily have just walked onto it, which at the time was full of construction machinery and excavations.
"What makes this case all the more disappointing is that Paddle Ltd had received a considerable amount of advice from HSE inspectors up and down the country. It appears the company has failed to heed HSE's advice, which is why they have ended up in front of the courts."
As part of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, companies must prepare a Construction Phase Plan to make sure that health, safety and welfare problems are spotted at an early stage and put right. Paddle Ltd had not prepared a suitable plan, although it did later submit a document to HSE.