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Earlier this month it was reported in IOSH Magazine that the owners of a Birmingham banqueting suite and the builder who installed it have been prosecuted following a ceiling collapse during a school event.
The article stated that on 20 July 2017, around 400 people were attending a graduation ceremony at the suite, when a large section of the suspended ceiling, which had been installed 17 months earlier, fell onto children and adults.
Thankfully an off-duty fire officer who was present at the event managed to evacuate all attendees before the ceiling completely failed, and in the end only six people had to be treated by paramedics. But it could have been much worse.
Birmingham City Council launched an investigation and found that structural drawings and calculations had failed to be submitted to the council for building regulations approval. Instead the contractor used an unsuitable lighting layout plan to install the new ceiling, with no consideration to the weight that had to be supported. On the day of the collapse, the fixings to the original suspended ceiling failed because they were overloaded by the new suspended ceiling installed by the contractor.
Whilst the contractor may have been the person to ultimately install the flawed ceiling, the banqueting suite also faced prosecution because it failed to fulfil its duties under the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) 2015 by not appointing in writing a principal designer and principal contractor. As the people who own the building, the banqueting suite had a duty to ensure that the roles of all those involved were sufficiently clearly identified and communicated, and this lack of responsibility contributed to the poor planning, monitoring and management of the project.
The banqueting suite was fined £12,000 plus £3000 in costs.
The contractor, aged 73, pleaded guilty to one offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act and was handed a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay costs of £2000.
The IOSH article quoted Mark Croxford, head of environmental health at Birmingham City Council, saying:
This incident shows what can happen if a business fails to ensure that building works are carried out in accordance with health and safety requirements – this could have resulted in serious or life-changing injuries to those from the school.
If you’re a business that is having work carried out which looks and feels like maintenance or construction, it will probably fall under the CDM Regulations 2015. This could include such things as having racking installed, or contractors building an exhibition stand at a venue, or even window cleaning. Whereas you may believe the onus on health and safety here is on the contractor working, as this prosecution proves, when it comes to CDM, it is the client that is actually responsible for ensuring the competence of a contractor.
If you’d like to find out more about CDM and what your responsibilities are, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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