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Half of basement sites fail snap inspection

26 Mar 15 Almost half of domestic basement sites failed safety checks made during unannounced visits by Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors in three London boroughs.

The snap inspections saw a team of inspectors visit 127 sites across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and parts of Westminster on 11/12 March.

Enforcement action was taken at 62 of those sites – an overall rate of 48% – with 44 prohibition notices served requiring dangerous practices to stop with immediate effect, 12 improvement notices served requiring safety improvements to be made and 63 notifications of contravention served identifying material breaches.

In a similar inspection drive last year the overall enforcement rate across 107 sites was one in three, or 36%.

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At two projects, conditions were so dangerous that inspectors were forced to close the sites. More than two thirds of the prohibition notices served dealt with the risk of workers falling from height, either into unguarded excavations or through unprotected floor openings, as well as unshored excavations. Inadequate welfare provision accounted for half of the improvement notices.

James Hickman, lead HSE inspector for the construction division in the City and South West London, said: “These enforcement figures reflect the rapidly-increasing number of companies entering the basement industry to meet the current high demand for basement living space in London. Those new to basement construction work are often unaware of the risks associated with the technically challenging nature of the work or of the standards required to ensure the safety of their workforce.”

Common issues found during the inspections were:

  • Work not properly planned
  • Failure to appoint a competent temporary works engineer to design suitable propping to support excavations and existing structures
  • Poor or absent welfare facilities for workers
  • Basic precautions missing, such as edge protection to prevent falls from height, especially into excavations
  • Unguarded conveyor belts

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