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Habitat Construction fined £110,000 after worker's fall

23 May 14 A London construction company has to pay more than £126,000 in fines and costs after a worker was paralysed by a fall from an unguarded window space into a basement.

The 38-year-old from Beckenham damaged his spinal cord in the incident at Grove Park, in Southwark, on 1 July 2011. He is no longer able to walk or work.

His employer Habitat Construction LLP was sentenced yesterday (22nd May) for safety failings following an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Southwark Crown Court heard that the injured worker was part of a team transforming two former Victorian hostels into four single town houses, a project that involved demolition, refurbishment and new-build activity.

During the work windows were removed from the buildings, which HSE established happened in an ad-hoc and uncontrolled manner. They were taken out at various times and for a variety of reasons, but no measures were put in place to prevent a fall through the spaces it created, such as boarding or guard rails. This meant there were open voids for a period of some four to six weeks.

The missing windows included several on a raised first floor area, which created openings at just above floor level. The worker fell through one of the missing windows in this area while attempting to connect a temporary electricity supply, losing his balance and plunging eight metres onto the concrete floor of a basement below.

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Habitat Construction LLP, of Southwark Street, London, SE1, was fined £110,000 and ordered to pay £16,620 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Toby Webb said: “We found a catalogue of working-at-height risks throughout the site, including the use of simple netting as edge protection to a deep excavation and the removal of windows without installing appropriate protection.

“The unguarded windows posed a clear and extremely serious risk, not only for this unfortunate worker but for others at the site who worked near what were effectively open voids.

“Subcontractors were also placed in danger because there was nothing to stop equipment or debris from falling from the window spaces.

“The onus was on Habitat Construction to ensure appropriate safety measures were in place, but the company clearly failed its legal responsibilities in this regard.”

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