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Saturday, 16 November

Spanish Company Falls Foul in UK

An international construction business has been sentenced after admitting multiple safety issues at a Manchester site where it was carrying out a shop refurbishment. 

Although Betcat International is based in Seville, Spain, it has offices in locations around Europe, including London and was hired by high street clothing chain, Mango, to carry out refurbishment and alteration works at its store on Market Street, Manchester. 

The project involved the full refurbishment of the multi-storey retail unit, including structural alterations to facilitate the installation of two new staircases, the installation of a lift shaft and the removal and infilling of an existing stairway. The site manager was employed by Betcat and all of the operatives on site were sub-contractors. 


 

Serious failings

On 29 July 2014, a HSE inspector visited the site to investigate safety concerns raised by a member of the public and to carry out an inspection of the construction works. A number of issues were identified during the visit, including: 

  • Two operatives were seen using tower scaffolds which had not been properly erected with full edge protection. One of the tower scaffolds was also balanced at an angle on some steps so that the working platform was not level. 

  • Another operative was observed walking up the new steel staircase from the ground floor to the first floor. The staircase had no handrails or any form of edge protection to prevent falls from height. 

  • On the second floor of the building, a man was observed standing on a structural steel beam which was spanning the large lift shaft opening in the concrete floor. There was nothing to stop this man from falling through to the floor below. The standard of guarding around the opening was poor on each floor and access was not prevented. There were also materials being stored in the area, indicating that operatives were approaching the opening frequently to retrieve materials. 

  • The site was heavily congested with materials, waste and other debris. There seemed to be no clear walkways and the lighting levels were very low. 

  • The toilet had been removed and there was no other toilet on site, nor was there any washing facilities. No other arrangements had been made regarding the provision of welfare facilities while the bathroom was being re-tiled and re-plumbed. 

  • An operative was seen using a small mitre saw which had no guard over the blade and he was pushing timber floorboards through the exposed blade by hand. 

  • A wood saw which was set up for cutting timber products had no dust extraction system fitted and there were piles of dust on all surfaces and large amounts of dust in the air. 

  • There were no fire alarms on site and the only fire extinguishers were out of date, having been left over from the previous shop. 

The HSE inspectors served six Prohibition Notices and two Improvement Notices, along with a Notification of Contravention. Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard all the issues were satisfactorily addressed by the company following HSE’s intervention. 

Betcat International pleaded guilty at Trafford Magistrates Court to breaching Section 2(1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £40,000 (£20,000 per offence) with £3,761costs. 

“Betcat International completely failed in its duty to protect its workers, sub-contractors and visitors to its site from harm,” stated Laura Moran, HSE Inspector, after the verdict. “Given the range of serious breaches identified, it is very fortunate that nobody was injured or even killed while working on this site. I’d therefore like to thank the member of the public who alerted us to the work and may well have prevented a serious injury.”

Picture: The refurbished Mango store in Market Street, Manchester but where the HSE found many failings in safety during refurbishment by the contractor, Spanish owned Betcat International

Article written by Mike Gannon

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