When HSE inspectors decided to carry out a Covid spot check at a site in Manchester, they found more than they had bargained for, with multiple health and safety issues as well as issues regarding the coronavirus.
The Bradford-based construction contractor ended up in Manchester Magistrates’ Court where he was fined after pleading guilty to breaches of s.21 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and regulation 13(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.
Principal contractor Umar Akram Khatab was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £3000 towards costs as well as a victim surcharge of £95.
The court heard that, during the inspection, a host of safety issues were identified including working at height, welfare, Covid-19, site security and electricity. Mr Khatab was served with a Prohibition Notice and two Improvement Notices.
A return inspection was made a month later, after very little communication from the principal contractor. Little or no improvements had been made regarding the issues, the HSE reported, and additional enforcement action was required, including a further Prohibition Notice regarding an unsupported excavation.
It was subsequently established that the contractor had failed to comply with any of the Improvement Notices the HSE had served.
This is the first prosecution to arise from the spot check programme.
HSE inspector Rebecca Vaudrey said: “HSE prides itself on being a proportionate and evidence-based regulator. Since the beginning of the pandemic HSE has carried out more than 316,000 Covid spot checks, with the priority to urgently make workplaces safe from transmission risks, rather than heavy-handed enforcement.”
The case clearly illustrates that, where there is consistent disregard to Covid or other risks to employees’ health and safety, she continued, HSE will use its powers to take action.