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London Basement Conversion Boom to Face Safety Scrutiny

By Head of Sheffield, Personal Injury

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be inspecting basement conversion projects in two wealthy West London boroughs this week.

HSE inspectors will be examining basement excavation sites in the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham this week in a bid to improve safety in the increasingly popular basement conversion industry.

The trend for so-called “digdowns” continues to spread across West London as soaring house prices prompt homeowners to increase their home’s living space and value by extending downwards.

The excavation boom has seen planning applications in Kensington & Chelsea alone jump from 46 in 2001 to 450 in 2013. 

The inspection initiative is in response to a number of basement Construction Site Accidents in the capital in recent years that have led to calls for greater safety awareness.

Over the last 10 years, 17 construction workers have been killed and nearly 30 seriously injured whilst working on basement conversion projects.

In December 2014, a company director was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter after a 37 year-old worker was crushed to death when excavation works collapsed on him in a £4m basement dig in Fulham.

The inspection teams will be addressing key safety concerns including the dangers of handling heavy steel supporting beams, collapsing excavations, lack of proper training, and the risk of collapse due to undermining and structural alterations.

Digdown projects are often carried out under existing homes and carry significant risk as they are so technically challenging.

Safety standards and excavation training are not always as rigorous as they should be and the dangers involved with working at height, unsupported excavations and open or unprotected construction sites are well known.

We very much welcome these inspections as the HSE will also be addressing welfare facilities for workers, problems with poor site access and the importance of having competent and trained personnel to engineer and design suitable propping measures to support excavations and existing structures.

Every year people are killed or seriously injured by collapses or falling materials while working in excavation sites.

To combat this, employers need to do everything they can to make excavations safe and enforce basic safeguards to ensure staff are protected, trained and properly managed at all times.

Matthew Tomlinson is a Senior Personal Injury Solicitor specialising in work accident compensation claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for anyone injured in an accident at work. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll call you.

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