Building contractor guilty of breaching safety practices

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A building contractor from Spain has been sentenced over unsafe working practices seen at a Manchester site…

Betcat International has been sentenced for failing to maintain the safety of its workers. The firm, which is based in Seville, Spain, has an office in London. The firm was hired to carry out refurbishment work at a store in Market Street, Manchester on behalf of clothing chain Mango.

The contract included 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.

Betcat employed a site manager and used subcontractors to carry out the work. However, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector visited the site on 29 July 2014 after concerns were raised by a member of the public regarding safety issues.

The inspection revealed a number of serious breaches. This included two operatives using tower scaffolds which had not been erected with full edge protection. Additionally the platform was not level as it was balanced on steps at an angle.

The inspector also saw an operative walking up the new steel staircase from the ground floor to the first floor without handrails or edge protection in place.

Another worker was observed standing on a structural steel beam, which spanned the lift shaft opening in the concrete floor. There were no safety structures in place to stop the man from falling through to the floor below. Furthermore, the inspector saw materials stories in the area, which indicated operatives were approaching the gap frequently to get materials.

The site was also deemed dangerous as there were no clear walkways. Lighting levels were also said to be very low.

The toilet had been removed from the site, meaning there were no facilities for staff.

An operative was seen using a small mitre saw with no guard over the blade. He was pushing timber floor boards through the exposed blade by hand. Additionally, a wood saw had no dust extraction system.

Lastly, there were no fire alarms on site and the fire extinguishers were out of date.

A total of six Prohibition Notices, two Improvement Notices, and a Notification of Contravention were served to the firm. Following the HSE’s invention Betcat addressed all the issues.

The case, which was brought before Trafford Magistrates’ Court, saw the firm fined £40,000 with costs of £3,761 for breaching Section 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

HSE inspector Laura Moran said after the case: “Betcat International Limited completely failed in its duty to protect its workers, its subcontractors and visitors to its site from harm.

“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.”

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