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Sat June 19 2021

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Fines for school roof demolition accident

24 May 13 Thomas Vale and a demolition contractor have been fined for safety failings after the six-tonne roof of a timber-framed classroom collapsed on a worker, leaving him seriously injured.

Stafford Magistrates’ Court heard that CMR Demolitions Ltd of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, and Thomas Vale Construction plc of Stourport-on-Severn, Worcester, failed to put in place temporary support arrangements during the demolition of the timber-framed classrooms at the former Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College site at Fenton in November 2011.

The injured man was knocked unconscious when he was struck by part of the roof when the building collapsed without warning. He suffered fractured ribs, a broken shoulder bone, a broken nose, several shattered teeth and swelling to his head.

Two other workers were caught under the collapsed building but managed to free themselves and were uninjured.

A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found the extensive soft-stripping of the walls by subcontractor CMR Demolitions had significantly reduced their load-bearing capacity. A combination of strong winds and lack of support to hold up the roof resulted in the collapse.

CMR Demolitions did not obtain information on how the timber-framed classrooms had been originally constructed and did not seek the opinion of a structural engineer during the work.

The building had been left in a stripped state overnight but no check was made on the structure before workers entered it the next day. Rotting timbers within the base of the timber frame were not spotted and addressed. The classroom could have been mechanically pushed over without putting any staff at risk.

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Principal contractor Thomas Vale Construction failed to ensure that CMR had provided a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the soft strip and demolition work of the classroom. It also failed to manage and monitor this demolition activity.

CMR Demolitions Ltd was fined a total of £9,900 and ordered to pay £6,117 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching both the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Thomas Vale Construction pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £6,600 with £6,117 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said: "CMR Demolitions Ltd made serious errors and the collapse occurred through a lack of planning and understanding of the structural stability of the classrooms. The company allowed their staff to work in extremely dangerous conditions. Had they employed a structural engineer this incident could have been avoided.

"As a result of these failures, a worker was seriously injured. The implications of a six-tonne, timber-framed roof collapsing onto people are obvious to all and this incident could easily have resulted in multiple fatalities.”

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