Four years on…

Didcot – I will be silent out of respect; but I will be vocal out of anger and frustration.

Earlier this week, I took a phone call from a researcher at a national radio station.

“Hi Mark,” the researcher said. “Are you aware that this weekend marks the fourth anniversary of the Didcot disaster?”

Am I aware? Let me think.

Am I aware that it is 208 weeks since the worst demolition accident in living memory? Am I aware that it is 1,459 days since Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable were ripped from the bosom of their respective families, never to return? Am I aware that those families and the demolition industry have been waiting more than two million minutes for some indication of what went wrong and for some sense of closure?

Yes, I am aware, thank you. Very aware. Painfully aware.

I am also aware that Didcot is the single thing I have written about most in a 30-year career in journalism. It is the subject I have talked about most. To this day, wherever I travel, it remains the subject I am asked about most.

To the families and friends of the four men; to their work colleagues; and to the global demolition community, the memory of Didcot never goes away.

My fear, however, is that – to the wider world – Didcot is now just a thing that happened in the past.

In the immediate aftermath of the accident, the subject was front page news. It was discussed in the House of Commons. Members of Parliament called for action.

On each of the subsequent anniversaries, the Health and Safety Executive or Thames Valley Police have issued statements to update the world on the progress of their investigation.

This year, as I am writing this, there has been no such statement. MPs are more concerned with the aftermath of a Brexit disaster they brought upon themselves. National newspapers are far more interested in hounding to death vulnerable celebrities.

In fact, with the notable exception of a strongly-worded call for action from the Unite union late last year, Didcot has seemingly fallen off the public radar.

We cannot allow that to happen.

Each passing day that the HSE drags its heels is a further insult to the memory of four men that died while going about their business. Each passing day that the legal-eagles pull together their high profile prosecution case is another day that any lessons that might be learned remain buried in bureaucracy. Each passing day that those involved are forced to remain silent to ensure they don’t prejudice any court case is another day that demolition men and women remain at risk and without all the necessary facts.

The fourth anniversary of the Didcot Disaster falls on a weekend, so it is questionable whether the demolition industry will observe the one or the four-minute silence with which it has marked previous anniversaries.

Personally, I will take a moment to respect the memory of Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable. I will take myself away from my family and friends and I will be silent, just for a sort time.

But I will not be silent about the need to bring the investigation to a conclusion. I will not be silent until the industry has the answers it needs. I will not be silent until the families of the four men get the closure they so richly deserve.

And neither should you.

For your reading pleasure…

The all-new Demolition magazine is here.

A profile on one of the UK’s most-respected demolition contractors, a full report on the recent Demolition Challenges 2020 Survey, and a look ahead to this year’s largest equipment exhibition. All this and so much more crammed into the latest edition of the world’s largest and most widely-read magazine for the global demlition industry.

Leaning tower of Dallas…

Imploded building refuses to abide by laws of gravity.

A high-rise office building set for implosion in Uptown Dallas Sunday morning refused to come down.

Part of the 11-story tower is still standing at a slight angle at the corner North Central Expressway and Haskell Avenue, despite multiple efforts to knock it over.

The area around what’s left of the building is now fenced off, with Dallas police officers keeping the site secure.

A spokesperson for Lloyd D. Nabors Demolition said the remaining structure poses no threat to surrounding buildings or pedestrians.

Firm issues Fleetwood statement…

Total Controlled responds to online criticism.

At the end of last week, DemolitionNews carried a story that highlighted issues reported on a demolition site in Fleetwood. The contractor involved – Total Controlled Demolition – has today responded with a statement that sets out their position on a project that has been the subject of considerable online criticism. DemolitionNews happily reproduces that statement in full, below:

“…We would like to update the relevant media sources with a true and fair reflection of the event that occurred at Marine View, Fleetwood, FY7.

We have been commissioned to conduct the demolition of the former Marine View, Fleetwood, which we understand is an iconic building which has stood the test of time and has seen many local people living and/or working at Marine View, Fleetwood and clearly has deep roots with the community.

We have certainly been tested whilst conducting the demolition works on site with limited space for equipment and storm Ciara which has battered the site with high winds and rain, to which we have unfortunately had to stop work on site numerous times due to the high winds.

Following the news report, we would like to confirm the following:

• The HSE had not stopped works on site, works were stopped by TOTAL to enable all parties concerned to discuss and review the situation and speak with the residents.
• We had reached out to the HSE and issued the required information and paperwork.
• No Prohibition Notice has been served.
• No Accidents were caused.

During all demolition works we have been using our demolition equipment such as selector grabs and multi-processing shears to enable safe deconstruction and using on site water suppression.

The building is 37-foot-high at pavement level and whilst processing materials on site, building a small platform with the material and including the attachments the machine is capable of reaching the desired height to safely deconstruct the building, along with other techniques adopted such as MEWP and Scaffolding Works which are contained within the Safe System of Work.

On the other side of the building we have installed protection scaffolding with the required lifts to deconstruct the building safely by hand demolition techniques as the neighbouring property is within a very close proximity 3 foot approx.

The event that was captured on video was from a local resident who is passionate about the building and surrounding community, we had just demolished a section of the building successfully with no debris falling outside of the fence line/boundary.

At this point late in the working day, there was some loose terracotta blocks left hanging at an unsafe height along with some window panes which looked unsafe and dangerous, our site team assessed the risk and since it would take a couple of hours to process the demolition material in front of the machine and the fact that Storm Ciara was closing in fairly fast, it was decided at this point to extend the site boundary and form a temporary closure to the road with banksmen and signage installed on both sides to prevent unauthorised access. Due to the camera angle of the video, you cannot see the extended fence line with the banksmen operating at specific points preventing access.

We proceeded to conduct an emergency system of work which is not our standard demolition practice, but due to the current circumstances with serious weather warnings and the potential of debris falling at a great height outside of our working hours on site, it was decided to remove the ultimate risk whilst we were present.

The site team anticipated the debris falling and of which the operation was conducted within approximately 2 minutes. The terracotta block dropped and hit the wall splitting into 2 sections with some minor debris associated which were immediately swept and removed and the fence line re-installed, with the potentially fatal risk removed.

Should the site team have had sufficient space to continue works and time to process the materials already demolished, we would have continued in the same manner we had done previously with no issues or concerns.

The resident who captured the video has been since spoken with and unfortunately doesn’t want the building to be demolished and not knowing the industry that we work in, has mistaken rockwool insulation as asbestos materials – we have since made contact with various residents to alleviate all concerns and offered an open-door policy to any and all information relating to our works including the asbestos removal information confirming removal was complete prior to demolition.

Whilst we appreciate that the video doesn’t show flattering deconstruction technique being adopted, but at that moment in time it was decided to remove a potentially fatal incident occurring outside of working hours.

Traditionally we would conduct an extensive letter drop and attend local meetings with residents, but we were advised that others would be conducting this as our client has a public liaison officer.
e do pride ourselves on our work and remain as competitive as possible whilst retaining a very good standard of workmanship as do others in the industry, we do remain frustrated by the incident we respect that anyone is allowed to have an opinion of any story but wish for the facts to be presented which will offer a true reflection of the site and event that occurred.

Whilst writing this statement, we can confirm that the HSE have attended the site and have left site with no issues with ourselves, to which no notices have been served…”

HSE acts on debris concerns…

Work on Fleetwood demolition site halted to allow safety investigation.

The demolition of a run-down Fleetwood flat block has ground to a halt after contractors were caught on camera tearing down the structure with no visible protection in place on the street.

Workers carrying out the demolition of the Marine View Apartments on the corner of Galloway Road and the Esplanade, were seen tearing down parts of the three-storey building using a crane, sending bricks and other debris flying all over the road.

An investigation is now being carried out and the work has now been stopped by the Health and Safety Executive following reports from Wyre Council and members of the public.

M&Y Maintenance and Construction cleared out the inside of the old flat block on behalf of Regenda Homes in January, with demolition work beginning two weeks ago.

Fleetwood councillor Rachel George, who visited the site yesterday following concerns, said: “I have spoken to the people onsite and they are happy that it’s safe. I’m happy that they have put security fences up, but when I arrived there was debris on the road. The people I have spoken to are worried. They are concerned, They feel like their safety is not being taken seriously.”

Read more here.

Excavator falls off trailer…

Hitachi EX1200 in Brown and Mason colours toppled during transportation.

A local newspaper in the Midlands is reporting that a large machine has fallen from a trailer after it hit a traffic light at a roundabout in Stafford.

The machine is sporting Brown and Mason stickers and appears to be the company’s Hitachi EX1200 machine.

The machine was left hanging off the side of the vehicle at around 12.40 pm yesterday on the A34 Queensway roundabout, near the junction of the A518.

A crane will be needed to lift the machinery, Staffordshire Police said.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “We received a call from the ambulance service to reports of a lorry which had shed its load on the roundabout. Fire and rescue were sent to the scene to help but left because of the weight of the machinery. The machinery had hit a traffic light, so the traffic light is also out.”

Read more here.

Let he who is without sin…

Demolition firm falls foul of late payment crackdown.

The issue of late payments and the potential impact upon cash flow have been a bugbear for demolition companies for about as long as anyone can remember. So it came as no major surprise when this issue was identified as one of the key concerns in the DemolitionNews Demolition Challenges Survey.

But it appears that some demolition firms are equally tardy when it comes to paying their suppliers. And now demolition contractor Rhodar has become the latest firm to be kicked off the Government’s Prompt Payment Code scheme for failing to pay suppliers on time.

Signatories to the Prompt Payment Code are required to pay 95% of all supplier invoices within 60 days.

“We will continue to challenge signatories to the code if the obligatory Payment Practice Reporting data suggests that their practices are not compliant,” says Philip King, the Chartered Institute of Credit Management (CICM) chief executive who chairs the Prompt Payment Code’s compliance boardWe are encouraged by those who have already submitted action plans to achieve future compliance, and we are working closely with those businesses to support a better payment culture.”

Nine construction companies that were previously suspended have been reinstated in the past couple of months, having demonstrated improvement.

These reinstated firms are: Balfour Beatty Group, Engie Services, Ferrovial Agroman (UK), John Sisk & Son, Kier Construction, Kier Infrastructure & Overseas, Galliford Try, Laing O’Rourke and Persimmon Homes.

Two fined over Camden blast death…

Worker killed when fuel storage tank exploded.

Materials Movement Ltd and P J Labour Services Ltd have been fined after a worker was killed in an explosion at a demolition site.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 16 March 2017, 54-year-old Stephen Hampton, working at a site on Swains Lane in Camden, London, was killed when an old fuel storage tank he was cutting up exploded and the end of the vessel struck him causing fatal injuries.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found both contractors failed in their duties to effectively plan, manage and monitor control measures to address the risks associated with the demolition of a site that contained fuel tanks. The standards for this type of work are well known, established and clear.

Materials Movement Ltd of Clifton Road, Henlow, Bedfordshire pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and has been fined £33,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,675.38.

P J Labour Services Ltd of Technology Park, Colindeep Lane, Colindale, London pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 15(2) of Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and has been fined £33,000 and ordered to pay costs of £7,648.18.

“Mr Hampton had recently adopted two young boys and this incident leaves them, along with his wife, alone and struggling financially all for the sake of a bit more effort on both defendant’s parts. Both Materials Movement Ltd and P J Labour Services Ltd have today been held to account for killing Mr Hampton after failing to take adequate action to protect the health and safety of persons working on their site,” says HSE inspector Ian Shearring.
“Neither company adequately assessed and controlled the risks of this highly dangerous work. It was left to the workers to devise their own methods of working, which was compounded by no site management.@”

Storming to the end…

Final explosive event at Didcot A Power Station completed.

Even as the UK was battered by high winds and rain as part of Storm Ciara, the explosive demolition team at Brown and Mason was carrying out its final checks ahead of what would be the last explosive event at the ill-fated Didcot A Power Station.

Yesterday morning, less than two weeks before the tragic boiler house collapse that left four demolition workers dead, the company completed the felling of the last remaining chimney which – at 200 metres – ranked as one of the tallest structures in the UK.

Going out with a bang…

Weekend blast will draw veil over ill-fated power station.

With winds of up to 60 mph still expected, there remains a question mark over the explosive demolition event that is scheduled to take place at the Didcot A Power Station on Sunday.

But, assuming the blast goes ahead, it will fell one of the tallest structures in the UK – 199.5 metre tall chimney that has stood over the power station since it was commissioned in 1964. The station’s cooling towers – the last of which were demolished in August last year – might have been the most iconic structures on the massive site. But it was the chimney that has dominated the skyline.

RWE said in a statement that health and safety for the upcoming demolition remained its “absolute number one priority – we are liaising with the relevant authorities to safely manage the demolition process.”

The blast will be undertaken by power station demolition experts Brown and Mason which has countless successful blasts under its belt including, notably, the iconic double-chimney clash at Cockenzie a few yeas ago.

This will be the final major demolition event to take place at the site which, sadly, is now synonymous with the premature collapse of a 10-storey boiler house that claimed the lives of workers Ken Cresswell, John Shaw, Michael Collings, and Christopher Huxtable.