Construction company and architect firm ignored safety laws, putting Exmouth care home residents 'at risk of death'

PUBLISHED: 13:58 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:58 25 May 2018

Exeter magistrates court. Picture: Terry Ife

Exeter magistrates court. Picture: Terry Ife

Archant

Dementia patients living at a care home in Exmouth were put at risk of death because a building firm and architect company ignored health and safety rules.

Coast & Country Construction Limited, based at Liverton Business Park, Exmouth, and Paul Humphries Architects Ltd, in Salterton Road, also in Exmouth, were this week fined a total of £170,000 for the failings, which put ‘vulnerable’ residents at risk of death or injury, and site workers at risk of death, serious injuries or ill health.

Coast & Country Construction Limited, of Concord Road, Exmouth did not attend court but was found guilty in its absence to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act; the firm was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,039.

Paul Humphries Architects Ltd, of Salterton Road, Exmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching construction regulations, it was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,039.

Exeter Magistrates’ Court heard that in early 2016 a concern was raised about the lack of health and safety controls at a large timber frame extension being built onto Manor Lodge Residential Home, in Portland Avenue, Exmouth.

On March 1, 2016, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site and found numerous health and safety breaches.

The Health and Safety Executive said during its site inspection, uncontrolled high-risk activities were witnessed that put workers at risk of death, serious injuries or ill health. The risks included falls from height, fire, slips and trips and poorly controlled wood dust.

The inspection found there was a total disregard for health and safety and site management.

In particular, the risk of fire spread associated with the construction of a timber frame extension adjoining an existing building.

The HSE said 80 physically and mentally impaired residents of the care home were put at risk of injury or death due to the possibility of fire spreading into the home.

The subsequent investigation by the HSE found that the work was not properly planned, nor appropriately supervised or carried out in a safe manner.

Passing the sentences, District Judge Diana Baker said: “The care home was full of people with dementia.

“If a fire had started these people would have been trapped and unable to escape.”

The HSE said Coast & Country Construction Limited, formerly known as Make a Loft a Home was the principal contractor and had a duty to control how the work was carried out and ensure that the work would be completed safely.

The timber frame extension work was designed by Paul Humphries Architects Ltd who failed to perform its duties as the principal designer and failed to consider the risk of fire spread to the vulnerable residents.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Nicole Buchanan said: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to devise safe methods of working and to provide the necessary information, instruction and training to their workers in the safe system of working.”

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those that fail to control workplace risks appropriately.”

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