Basement projects in “high value London boroughs” are to be inspected by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) next week amid concerns that there has been a rise in the number of incidents.
Construction inspectors will be focusing on properties in Kensington and Chelsea as well as Hammersmith and Fulham throughout the week beginning March 9, as the government looks to clamp down on bad safety practices in this increasingly popular sector.
HSE said there had been 17 deaths in the last 10 years caused by an excavation collapsing, while 27 people have been seriously injured.
In the most recent fatality, 37-year-old Anghel Milosavlevici was crushed to death while working on a basement excavation in Ellerby Street, Fulham.
Last December Richard Golding, a qualified health and safety advisor employed by AllDay Safety Services was was found guilty of manslaughter offences and jailed as a result.
What are they looking for?
Inspection teams will be looking at key safety issues including collapsing excavations, risk of building collapse from structural alterations or undermining by excavating, the dangers of handling heavy steel beams, poor access and risks of open or unprotected parts of sites.
HSE could also pursue action for other issues such as poor welfare facilities and lack of training.
HSE construction inspector James Hickman, whose team covers south-west London, said: “The construction of basements in London is increasingly widespread. Often it is carried out under existing homes as owners seek to increase their living space without a house move.
“The work is technically challenging and can carry substantial risk. Standards are often poor and often vulnerable sections of the labour market are recruited.
“Contractors are failing to appoint a competent temporary works engineer to design suitable propping to support excavations and existing structures. Likewise, on many projects basic safeguards are missing, such as edge protection to prevent falls from height. And all too often little thought is given to providing proper welfare facilities for site workers.
“Where we find poor practice that is putting lives at risk we will take action, including stopping work and prosecuting those responsible.”