A Manchester-based property developer has been sentenced after the roof and part of the rear wall collapsed at one of his properties during demolition works.
Manchester Crown Court heard how Riaz Ahmad appointed a group of workers, who had no experience in construction, to carry out demolition work at a property in Oldham.
After receiving a call from Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council’s building control department on 11 August 2017, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited the site and found almost all the internal walls and supports of the roof had been taken out. A Prohibition Notice was served preventing any further work and a major road running past the building was closed.
A day later, it was agreed that there was no safe way of accessing the building and Oldham MBC obtained an order to demolish the building. It was soon after this that the roof and wall collapsed. This triggered an emergency response involving Greater Manchester Police and the Fire Service, during which properties were evacuated and the area cordoned off.
Oldham Borough Council arranged for an emergency demolition of the remainder of building to take place later that day. Local businesses faced significant disruption as the site was made safe.
An investigation by the HSE found the collapse could have been prevented if a principal contractor had been appointed and a suitable risk assessment been carried out. These steps could have ensured the stability of the building during the demolition with regards to temporary works and control measures such as scaffolding.
Mr Ahmad did not suitably plan the work as he employed unskilled workers, neglected the risks from working at height and stability of the building, failed to provide them with basic welfare facilities and did not consider several health hazards.
Riaz Ahmad, of Dickenson Road, Manchester, was found guilty on 20 July 2018 of breaching Section 2 (1) and Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 19 (1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015. He was sentenced to eight months imprisonment for each offence (to run concurrently) and was order to pay prosecution costs of £65,000.
“It was nothing short of a miracle
that only one person was injured.“
In his sentencing of Mr Ahmad, the Judge said: “This was a very serious case indeed. It was nothing short of a miracle that only one person was injured. A clear statement has to be made to those who undertake significant projects such as this, namely that health and safety legislation has to be adhered to for good reason, and those who ignore its basic tenets will receive punishment.”
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Argument said: “The incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.
“Duty holders should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”
Lorna Stimpson, Local Authority Building Control’s Deputy Managing Director, added, “This prosecution was well deserved and came about through cooperation between local building control, emergency services and the HSE – exactly the type of joint working envisaged by Dame Judith Hackitt in the proposed JCA.
“And because the HSE were involved the case could be tried at the High Court with real teeth in terms of sentencing and cost recovery. This is something LABC have been campaigning on for years – when dangerous building work is prosecuted in Magistrate’s Courts through the building acts the Court simply do not have the powers to either punish the culprits sufficiently or recover the costs of the local authority.
“Our research has shown that Magistrates award costs that are typically 16 times less than the costs of prosecution and fine offenders just over £5,000 on average – much less than the offender usually gains by breaking the rules. In future, building standards must have power to prosecute offenders in the knowledge their costs will be recovered and the offender will receive a punishment – like in this case – that provides a real deterrent not to ignore building safety regulations.”