Company director prosecuted after safety failings

Both a Buckinghamshire construction company and its managing director have been fined after multiple safety failings led to two buildings' collapse.

The affected properties were undergoing a refurbishment programme and were located on Fulham Road in Westminster when they completely fell apart without any warning, but luckily it was Sunday and nobody was on shift at the time.

Upon hearing about the incident, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation in an attempt to figure out what made the buildings collapse in January 2011.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard that Ethos Construction, which was managed by Pritish Lad, was undergoing an extensive renovation programme that would lead to the creation of 56 new apartments and 13 commercial units.

But numbers 270 and 280 - adjoining properties - collapsed without any notice and the fallen rubble and debris took a number of days to clean up - with Fulham Road, a major thoroughfare in the area - closed for several weeks while neighbouring buildings' safety was checked by surveyors.

HSE inspectors found Mr Lad allowed structures to become unstable and weak, with evidence of renovation activity within the collapsed buildings found - showing the 34-year-old managing director had not intended to shore up the houses further. If residents had moved in, this could have led to a number of deaths.

It was also discovered by investigators that large piles of bricks were stored in still-standing properties and this put them at risk of overloading.

Two prohibiton notices were served on Mr Lad's development to prevent further work from going ahead and he was given a fine of £9,500 and ordered to pay costs of £6,750 after pleading guilty to five different health and safety breaches.

Ethos Construction Solutions was fined £14,000 and told to pay a further £9,000 in prosectution fees after it also admitted guilt.

HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented: "The development site was a scene of complete devastation following the collapse and had anyone been working at the time there could have been multiple fatalities and serious injuries.

"It is also good fortune that the collapsed building didn't come down in the direction of the busy Fulham Road, which could also have had tragic consequences."

By Chris Stevenson