Prefab building collapses on churchgoers

Grant Prior 9 years ago

A modular construction specialist has been fined after a two-storey portable building collapsed at a church where more than 30 children and parents were playing in the lower room.

South Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court heard the incident happened at Ashbourne Elim Pentecostal Church in Derbyshire where two volunteers were preparing parcels for the church’s foodbank in the upper cabin.

The two cabins had been refurbished and installed by Relocatable Building Systems Ltd in September 2013.

A month later, on 24 October, both cabins dropped when a bolt on the jacking leg of the lower unit sheared off. The top part of the leg came out of the wooden frame, causing the collapse.

The upper cabin came to rest on the roof of the lower one at one corner, sending a number of food items falling off the shelves in the upper building.

One of the volunteers suffered a bruised arm and, although no-one else was injured, all were badly shaken.

Senior pastor, Rev Ben Brown said it was a ‘miracle’ the lower cabin had not collapsed on them.

An HSE investigation found the company had refurbished the buildings before their installation at the church.

New inner sections of the jacking legs were installed but the original pins, used to adjust the height of the legs, could not be fitted due to the holes not being drilled to the correct size.

Instead,  smaller bolts, which were not designed for this purpose, were used, meaning they would fail at some time in the future.

An Improvement Notice was served by HSE on Relocatable Building Systems Ltd requiring the company to develop safe systems of work to ensure refurbished buildings were safe.

Both cabins at the church were repaired and reinstalled.

Relocatable Building Systems Ltd, of Hilton, Derby was fined a total of £8,000 with £1,589 costs after admitting two safety breaches.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Steve Shaw said: “This was a terrifying incident for those involved and left a lot of people scared and upset.

“During installation the company should have carried out a final check to ensure all the work had been completed and the two cabins were bolted together safely.

“It is very lucky that the top cabin stayed in contact with three of the jacking legs as this prevented the full weight coming to rest on the wooden frame of the lower unit where children were playing.

“The wooden frames are not designed to take the weight of an upper unit so it could have quite easily come crashing down with horrific consequences.

“The collapse could have been avoided by Relocatable Building Systems had the refurbishment been undertaken in a suitable manner using the same or better specification material as the original.

“The church was unable to rent out the rooms while they were away being fixed and when they were reinstalled some months later, there was a lot of suspicion and doubt about their safety from the community the church serves.”

Senior Pastor, Rev Ben Brown, whose wife and two-year-old son were in the lower room at the time of the incident, said:

“It was a complete miracle that it did not fall further but came to rest where it did. Another half inch and the consequences would have been devastating. I think someone was certainly looking after us that day.


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