Company fined after wall collapse leads to child’s toe being amputated

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Gurmit Properties Ltd has been fined £22,500 and ordered to pay £11,998.80 costs for safety breaches after a substantial part of a wall at a construction site in West Yorkshire collapsed, injuring a child and leading to the amputation of her toe.

The company appeared before Leeds Magistrates’ Court on 12 April. The court heard that Gurmit Properties Ltd (GPL) was the owner of the site in Barnsley Road, South Elmsall when the wall collapsed.

The company had previously received a large delivery of aggregate, which was deposited on land next to the construction site. Officials from the local council attended the site and ordered the material to be removed. GPL brought the materials on to its site, storing it behind the wall that collapsed.

On 7 February 2018 an eight-year old child and her mother were walking along Harrow Street, adjacent to GPL’s construction site, when the wall collapsed. The child was hit by debris and sustained injuries that included crush injuries to her foot that resulted in the amputation of her big toe on that foot.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that GPL had not assessed the structural integrity of the wall to ensure it was safe to be used as either a secure boundary for the site or as a retaining wall for storing materials. When the materials were stored against the wall it failed, leading to the collapse and the injuries to the child.

GPL were a client and a contractor within the meaning of the Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015, and failed in their duty to ensure that the wall was either safe for use as a secure site boundary or as a retaining wall for storing materials.

Gurmit Properties Ltd, based in Albion Street, Castleford, West Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Chris Tilley commented: “The company should have appointed a competent person to carry out an assessment of the wall at the start of the project to establish whether it was safe to use as a boundary wall, and then carried out a similar assessment when the wall was used as a retaining wall for storing materials.

“This incident could have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and adopting safe working practices.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”