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Suspended jail sentence for cowboy demolition contractor

12 Apr 16 A Hertfordshire demolition contractor has been found guilty for a series of safety failings across two separate sites.

His disregard for the safety of his workers was so blatant that he was given a four-month suspended prison sentence and 200 hours community service order.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) received a complaint in March 2014 from a member of the public living close to the former Chesham Community Hospital site in Buckinghamshire.

When HSE inspectors arrived they found a catalogue of failings including the presence of asbestos-containing materials among building debris, demolition arrangements not recorded in writing, and witness accounts of dangerous practises including unsafe work at height and use of construction machinery, poor site security and a lack of welfare facilities. In the inspectors’ opinion there was also a serious risk of injury from collapse of partially demolished buildings.

Prohibition and improvement notices were immediately served on both the contractor and client to ensure on-going risks were controlled. The client, Chesham Care Ltd, was prosecuted for failings under the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM) and fined a total of £30,000 in October 2015.

Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court heard that the HSE tried and failed to contact the contractor. However, in June 2015 an HSE inspector was alerted to unsafe working practices at a site in Stevenage, Hertfordshire. When he got there, he found the same contractor in control of workers unsafely dismantling parts of the building to recover recyclables, such as metal. No risk assessment had been done regarding respiratory exposure to asbestos containing materials. The client told HSE that the contractor was working without their knowledge on the site and had alerted the police.

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As well as immediate enforcement action being taken on site to control risks, a private investigator was employed to track down the contractor who had failed to respond to the HSE.

Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court heard that Scot Ian Richardson, trading as Aztec Demolition, was acting as the contractor in control for both projects. After a trial he was found guilty of two breaches of the CDM Regulations 2007, one breach of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and one breach of The Health and Safety at Work Act etc,1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Rauf Ahmed said: “Sole traders who control workers to demolish and dismantle structures must understand their legal obligations. This is a high risk industry in which poor planning has no place. Family members expect their loved ones to come home in one piece.

“Clients have a key role in safely directing construction projects. Effective arrangements at the start can have an amplified positive impact down the various stages to completion, including making informed and competent appointments”

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