The message from the court could not be clearer: it was your own stupid fault.
William Batten, aged 66 and trading as Bill Batten Concrete Cutting & Demolition Service, was injured when he removed key timber supports at the corners of the roof of a temporary classroom, destabilising it and causing it to collapse on top of him. The collapse, in June 2013, was witnessed by schoolchildren in a nearby playground on their lunch break.
Mr Batten suffered a fractured vertebrae and neck injury. He was in hospital for a week but has since returned to work, albeit only on light duties.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Mr Batten had started work he was not supposed to. It identified that the roof of the temporary classroom had been supported by timber in each corner. Steel fixtures had been inserted to add additional structural support for the windows, but not the roof.
North and East Devon magistrates heard yesterday that Mr Batten’s firm had been contracted to demolish two buildings at Lympstone Church of England Primary School.
A soft strip of the temporary classroom took place on 11 June 2013 and demolition of the main structure by mechanical means was to be carried out on the following days when Mr Batten’s son, business partner and planner of the work, returned from leave. A further risk assessment and method statement was to also be submitted prior to the structural demolition going ahead.
However, after Mr Batten had finished the soft strip with two labourers, he decided to be extra-helpful and start further stripping work, including the removal of the timber supports to the corners and cladding.
He wrongly assumed that steel stanchions supporting the windows were holding up the roof. When the wooden struts to the corners of the building were removed, the roof came down. The two employees narrowly escaped harm but Mr Batten, was trapped underneath the roof for several hours.
William Melvin Batten, trading as Bill Batten Concrete Cutting & Demolition Service, of Exeter Road, Kingsteignton, Devon, was fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £868.90 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 29(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.