The HSE is launching a surge in safety checks on expensive London basement conversion projects in the more salubrious London boroughs next week.


The focus of the push will be Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham following a number of fatal incidents, and serious injuries in recent years in London attributed to basement work.


Inspectors will be viewing the basement work in relation to a number of primary safety concerns such as collapsing excavations (which have resulted in fatalities over the last 10 years); risk to the structure of the building from structural alteration, undermining and excavating etc.

Over the last 10 years, HSE has received reports of 17 construction workers having died as a result of an excavation collapsing, whilst in the same period 27 were seriously injured.

In December 2014, following the death of a labourer in a basement excavation collapse in Fulham, a company director was found guilty of manslaughter offences and jailed.


HSE construction inspector James Hickman said: “The construction of basements in London is increasingly widespread. Often it is carried out under existing homes as owners seek to increase their living space without a house move.


“The work is technically challenging and can carry substantial risk. Standards are often poor and often vulnerable sections of the labour market are recruited.


“Contractors are failing to appoint a competent temporary works engineer to design suitable propping to support excavations and existing structures.


“Likewise, on many projects basic safeguards are missing, such as edge protection to prevent falls from height. And all too often little thought is given to providing proper welfare facilities for site workers.


“Where we find poor practice that is putting lives at risk we will take action, including stopping work and prosecuting those responsible.”

We welcome the continuing efforts by HSE to improve health and safety in this sector of the construction industry. The rise in basement conversions has lead to a whole new industry growing up in London which has put more pressured on building supplies and construction jobs however there needs to be adequate levels of training to work in basement consitions and it's important the proper safeguards are considered and put in place.