04 July 2016

Whilst the security and safety of a construction site is generally the responsibility of the appointed principal contractor, developers can be liable for a breach of health and safety resulting in death. A June 2016 case has highlighted the importance of securing the perimeter of a site where two men ‘fooling around’ died after they fell through the hoardings securing a construction site in London. The hoardings collapsed when the men fell on to them. The principal contractor responsible for the site has been fined over half a million pounds for the corporate manslaughter of the men.

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is designed to hold organisations to account for systemic failings which are considered negligent and which result in a death. Since the Act came into force, 15 companies have either pleaded or been found guilty of corporate manslaughter; over half of which were the result of a death on a construction site. Under new sentencing guidelines, fines can be up to £20 million depending on the size of the company and the seriousness of the breach.

Although in this instance the principal contractor was responsible for the hoardings, there are situations (particularly during periods of inactivity on sites), when the maintenance and responsibility for hoardings transfers back to the developer. Developers should check that responsibility for the maintenance of hoardings on sites is clearly allocated and that hoardings are regularly checked to ensure that they are secure and safe.

If this situation sounds familiar to you, please do not hesitate to speak to us. Burges Salmon LLP has a team of specialists in construction health and safety who can advise you on the safety of your development and your potential liability. For further information please contact Ann Metherall.

Key contact

Ann Metherall

Ann Metherall Partner

  • Head of Dispute Resolution
  • Head of Health and Safety
  • Transport

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