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CROSS Safety Report

Concerns on stability require prompt action

Report ID: 171 Published: 1 January 2010 Region: CROSS-UK

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Overview

A reporter was concerned about overall building stability during an extension and conversion project.

All old internal walls and floors had either been removed or were being removed and external walls were in a precarious condition.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all built environment professionals:

  • If you are aware of a live or urgent safety issue:

    1. Your first step should be to raise this with the organisations concerned if possible

    2. If applicable, you should speak to your line manager

    3. If this does not resolve the issue, or if the response you receive is inadequate, then you should inform the appropriate regulator

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A reporter was concerned about overall building stability during an extension and conversion project. All old internal walls and floors had either been removed or were being removed and external walls were in a precarious condition. The reporter had stressed the importance of temporary support/shoring of external walls on several occasions to his client, the building owner, who had advised that an internal bracing scaffold was to be installed.

As yet this had not appeared, and the client was pushing his builder to continue work on site without the scaffold. The reporter had also made other recommendations which they suspected were being ignored, and they were concerned that the CDM co-coordinator’s role was not being acknowledged.

The reporter contacted local authority building control and subsequently a building inspector paid very close attention to construction on site. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) also then became more actively involved and identified that the client's CDM co-coordinator, to whom the reporter had also e-mailed their concerns, was not actually appointed to undertake the full CDM role, and work was stopped until a proper CDM co-ordinator had been appointed by the client.

The reporter contacted local authority building control and subsequently a building inspector paid very close attention to construction on site.

The reporter was pleased to state that their client was grateful for the help given to them in responding to the demands made by the local authority and the HSE. The reporter was also much happier after the client undertook the work without cutting safety corners.

Expert Panel Comments

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There are parallels here with another report (Report 146), in that a concern has been noticed and successful action taken by someone who is not directly responsible. It is not uncommon for a construction professional to find themselves in a situation where a lay client or inexperienced contractor ignores advice and persists in unsafe practices.

Sometimes an approved inspector may have a limited/no scope for site visits, similarly the CDM co-ordinator as in this case, but neither has any powers on site. Building regulations are a matter of the final standards being achieved not necessarily how they are constructed on site. In the first instance there should be a formal communication be made to the CDM co-ordinator. The lead consultant can be copied as should the principal contractor. In the case of a domestic project with no CDM co-ordinator local authority building control would be the first point of contact for a safety issue.

As in previous reports, it is apparent that there are those who do not appreciate the fundamentals of stability especially in temporary works or building alterations. The need in all these cases is for a sound understanding of how structures behave, and renovation of old buildings can often introduce significant risks if not approached in the appropriate manner.

The designer should be satisfied that there is a reasonable way in which the works could be executed. Whilst these actions are in the control of the designer, and indeed are inferred obligations stemming from the CDM regulations, it is difficult if the client does not pay prompt attention. It is fortunate that, in this case, the reporter pressed the point.

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