Fears over the safety of basement construction projects in London have prompted the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to launch extra inspections next week.
HSE inspectors will spend two days examining various sites in Chelsea, Fulham, Hammersmith and Kensington where many basement projects are underway.
Basement project fatalities
A company director was convicted of manslaughter offences in December last year and jailed after a collapse at a basement project in Fulham that caused the death of a labourer.
The inspectors will be looking for dangers that could cause excavations or buildings above and around them to collapse, risks surrounding the use of heavy metal beams, access problems and the protection of sites. They will also be checking that staff have adequate welfare facilities and that they have been trained properly to do the work.
Basement projects are popular in London as they allow residents to increase their living space without having to move, according to James Hickman, a HSE construction inspector.
He says the projects are often difficult, risky and involve vulnerable workers. He also says the conditions they work in can sometimes be poor.
Mr Hickman says projects should involve qualified engineers to make sure excavations and buildings are all suitably propped up, but this isn’t always the case.
He has also seen evidence of excavations without basic safeguards like edge protection to prevent workers falling from height and often there is a lack of welfare facilities for workers.
Mr Hickman says he and his fellow HSE inspectors will not hesitate to call a halt to projects and prosecute those responsible if they determine that lives are in danger at basement project sites.
He says companies are well aware of the risks that unsupported excavations pose to workers and what they should be doing to make sure they are safe.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: March 5, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown