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Building firms fined £46k after site fall

24 Oct 23 Warrington magistrates have handed down fines of £46,000 after a building site labourer fractured his skull in a fall.

Scene of the crime in Okell Street, Runcorn
Scene of the crime in Okell Street, Runcorn

The man had been working on a new build house when he fell through a stairwell on 3rd March 2021.

He was working for Total Brickwork (UK) Ltd on a construction site run by Challenger Building Services Ltd on Okell Street, Runcorn, where the two companies were building four semi-detached and five terraced houses.

The labourer, who was 43 at the time, was on the first floor in one of the new terraced properties. He had been instructed by the director of Total Brickwork to clear up debris and mortar that had been left behind by bricklayers.

He had climbed to the first floor using a ladder at the stairwell opening, which had been covered with temporary boards. The boards were slid apart to allow access to the first floor.

Intending to sweep the debris down the stairwell opening, the man lifted up one of the temporary boards and stepped forward as he was going to lean it against a wall. However, he fell through the stairwell opening onto the ground floor below as there were no floorboards underneath the temporary boards.

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He fractured his skull, sustained multiple broken ribs and needed a plate to be inserted into his collarbone.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the principal contractor Challenger Building Services and Total Brickwork (UK), the contractor in control of the work activity, had failed to plan, manage and monitor work at the site to ensure it could be carried out safely. Any worker accessing the first floor was at risk of injury due to a lack of appropriate measures for preventing falls from height.

Challenger Building Services Ltd, of Horwich, Bolton, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulation 2015. It was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £1,991.32 in costs at Warrington Magistrates’ Court on 23rd October 2023.

Total Brickwork UK Ltd, of Runcorn, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulation 2015. It was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £1,991.32 in costs.

HSE inspector David Brassington said: “This incident could so easily have been avoided had the risks associated with working on the upper floors been adequately assessed and measures been taken to protect the stairwell openings. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

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