On 2 August 2021, Urban Living Constructions Limited was fined £50,000 following numerous health & safety breaches. The breaches included a lack of edge protection to prevent falls from height and the unsafe use of a plank by which operatives were expected to access a basement extension from a main property.

There are two important points from this case:

  1. HSE had identified previous breaches on Urban Living sites. From 2015 – 2019, two prohibition notices were served on the business in relation to unsafe work at height. In that period, a further prohibition notice was served in relation to an unsafe excavation. The business was criticised for failing to properly address those earlier breaches – after the court hearing earlier this month, HSE Inspector Adam Thompson said: "The standards on this site fell far below the minimum legal standard. This is inexcusable in any case, but even more so given the amount of enforcement action the company had previously received in relation to known health and safety risks.” It's clear from this case that HSE wanted to send a message that repeated compliance failings will not be tolerated. We can also expect the company's poor health and safety record to have been an aggravating factor taken into account by the court when determining the level of fine.
  2. Many of the compliance breaches related to insufficient work from height protection measures. Recent statistics published by HSE in July 2021 demonstrate that falls from height cause the most fatalities in UK workplaces. The report also confirms that the construction sector continues to experience the highest rate of injuries & fatalities. In that context, it's vital that all organisations take steps to ensure their work from height protection measures are robust.

This case is a useful reminder that responsible organisations must take steps to remedy any compliance concerns identified either within the organisation or by a regulator. Failure to do so can result in enforcement action, fines and damage to reputation.

Contributors

Ramsay Hall

Legal Director