London basement digs are potential death traps

city of london (st pauls)
Construction firms working on mega-basements in central London are putting lives at risk
city of london (st pauls)
Construction firms working on mega-basements in central London are putting lives at risk

Construction firms working on mega-basements in central London are putting lives at risk, say Health and Safety officials.

When inspection teams carried out unannounced visits to 107 partially-built basements in Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham and Westminster on 11 and 12 March, they found that 46 sites breached health and safety rules.

Two were shut down immediately because of the risks posed to workers and a further 44 were judged to be so hazardous that the contractors were served with prohibition notices requiring immediate improvements.

More than two-thirds of the prohibition notices concerned the risk of workers falling from height into unguarded excavations or through unprotected floor openings. And on many sites welfare facilities for workers were found to be poor or absent altogether.

The HSE’s findings come as more homeowners dig below ground in a quest to add saunas, swimming pools, gyms and home cinemas to their properties. In the past five years, 800 planning applications for basement conversions have been submitted to Kensington and Chelsea Council.

James Hickman, the HSE’s lead inspector for the construction division in the City and south-west London, said: “These alarming figures reflect the increasing number of companies entering the basement industry.

“Those new to basement construction work are often unaware of the risks associated with the technically challenging nature of the work or of the standards required to ensure the safety of their workforce.”