Who is really to blame when a non-professional demolition goes awry.
The construction industry news portal The Construction Index (TCI) today carries a story about a company that has been fined £8,000 after a botched demolition sent masonry crashing into a neighbouring property through a skylight, narrowly missing an occupant.
That story comes courtesy of the Health and Safety Executive which brought the prosecution against Stanmore-based Axis Build Ltd. According to the story, an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the incident could have easily been avoided had Axis Build Ltd involved a competent person, such as a structural engineer, in the planning process.
I have no doubt that this is a valid conclusion to draw. However, is the story not also failing to recognise the presence of a large, grey pachyderm in the room?
Yes, Axis Build probably should have employed the services of a structural engineer. But then again, should the mysteriously unnamed client have employed the services of an actual demolition company in the first place?
According to the story, the demolition involved use of an excavator to take down the building, precisely the kind of work that demolition companies are trained for. It also required workers to work at height, again a familiar environment for demolition professionals.
But no. Somewhere along the line, someone – presumably the client – decided that any Tom, Dick or Harry can do demolition; particularly if they’re cheaper or more convenient than an actual demolition company.
There is no question that Axis Build were negligent, that their actions could have caused injury, and that their prosecution was fully justified.
Yet, once again, the person that created the situation in which this incident occurred goes unnamed and unprosecuted…possibly to repeat the exercise again in the future.