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‘Dickensian-like’ conditions at Preston construction site

Posted on - 18th October, 2013 - 7:48am | Author - | Posted in - Avenham, News

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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reports that a construction firm has been prosecuted for allowing subcontractors to carry out refurbishment work on landmark Preston building in’Dickensian-like’ conditions.

According to the report, Altrincham-based RNT Developments and Construction Ltd brought in roofers, damp treatment experts, electricians, joiners and plasters to work on the Victorian Grade II listed Harris Institute in Avenham but it failed to provide basic facilities for workers.

For nearly seven weeks the workers were without toilets or running water and had to use paper towels and wet wipes to keep themselves clean themselves, and find toilets elsewhere in the city.

The issue was spotted during an inspection earlier in 2013 when inspectors from HSE made an announced visit to the construction site.

Work at the site started on 3 January 2013, but HSE were not alerted to the lack of basic amenities until an inspector visited the site on 19 February 2013.

During this time, a dry rot treatment subcontractor had filled six skips with plaster from the walls, with other contractors removing rotten timbers and floor boards in dusty conditions.

Preston Magistrates’ Court were told that the water supply in the old institute had been switched off, so toilets could not be used, as the building had been empty for over two years. There was not internal heating leaving the building bitterly cold.

RNT Developments and Construction Ltd, of Sheldrake Road in Broadheath, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 on 16 October 2013.

HSE Inspector Stuart Kitchingman reported that:
“It would have been easy for RNT to reinstate the existing welfare facilities in the building, but instead the firm allowed work to be carried out in grimy and dusty conditions for nearly seven weeks without access to the most basic facilities.

“It’s totally unacceptable in the twenty-first century to find Dickensian-like conditions. In fact, it’s a legal requirement that workers aren’t treated in this way.

“The working conditions were archaic – more like they would have been when the building was first erected in Victorian times – and will no longer be tolerated in the 21st Century.

“RNT should have made sure there were welfare facilities on the site before it allowed the refurbishment project to start. Instead, workers had to face needlessly unpleasant conditions over several weeks.”

HSE inspectors made unannounced visits to 2,363 sites where refurbishment or repair work was taking place. The RNT site was one visited during the initiative this year in which one in five construction sites were served with enforcement notices after failing health and safety checks.

The HSE is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.

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