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CROSS Safety Report

Need for licensed builders

Report ID: 214 Published: 1 January 2011 Region: CROSS-UK

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A reporter feels certain building work should only be carried out by licensed qualified builders.

Key Learning Outcomes

For all built environment professionals:

  • It is important to recognise and know the boundaries of your expertise and work within the limits of your competence

  • Be aware that Health and Safety legislation places duties on individuals as well as companies to ensure that they do not put people at risk of harm

Full Report

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The Full Report below has been submitted to CROSS and describes the reporter’s experience. The text has been edited for clarity and to ensure anonymity and confidentiality by removing any identifiable details. If you would like to know more about our secure reporting process or submit a report yourself, please visit the reporting to CROSS-UK page.


Certain building operation should only be carried out by licensed qualified builders, says a reporter. They believed that the creation of a basement below an existing building is far too complicated and dangerous for the inexperienced operatives that abound in this industry.

The photograph (Figure 1) shows inadequate propping of a house and illustrates what happens when inexperienced builders are let loose on a basement excavation. This was two weeks after building control staff served a dangerous structure notice on the builder for undermining the foundations whilst digging the basement.

Figure 1: inadequate propping of house

Expert Panel Comments

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Expert Panels comment on the reports we receive. They use their experience to help you understand what can be learned from the reports. If you would like to know more, please visit the CROSS-UK Expert Panels page.

Extending accommodation by extending basements is becoming common and in sophisticated cases even double basements may be added. The CROSS Panel is aware of many instances of local collapse and indeed of complete building collapse where this work has not been carried out properly. Not only is there damage but deaths and injuries have resulted from improper basement construction. Older properties are particularly at risk since they often have shallow foundations (or no proper foundations), the brickwork bonding may be poor, and the mortar may be weak.

There can be no guarantee that the foundation level is uniform so leading to a requirement for underpinning. Design issues are carrying vertical load, resisting lateral pressure (for basement wall stability and bending) and assuring that the stability of adjacent property is not jeopardised. Clients should use competent people but too often the cheapest option is chosen.

The DCLG Competent Persons Scheme aims to reduce these risks by giving ‘notified’ organisations under The Building Regulations the powers to provide a building control function for some types of building activity or refurbishment work. Basement work however requires building regulation approval and in many cases the intervention of building control, sometimes by the serving of dangerous building notices, has prevented collapse.

Building control cannot control the qualifications or experience of those carrying out the work indeed they cannot require detailed plans of the work. The applicant often uses a building notice procedure which does not require the deposit of plans.

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