Cladding removal firm fined £240k for ‘disturbing’ safety breaches

Construction company Green Facades Ltd has been fined £240,000 for safety breaches while removing cladding from a Liverpool apartment block.

The cladding was similar to that used on the Grenfell Tower, where 72 people died in a horrific fire in 2017.

Green Facades was contracted to remove the aluminium composite panels and combustible insulation material from The Circle, an eight-storey building on Henry Street.

However, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors found cladding exposed and unprotected from sources of ignition and in some cases left lying on residents’ balconies.

A subsequent investigation found the company failed to take appropriate precautions to address the risk of fire.

HSE said the company also did not take account of published guidance on the safe removal of cladding. This was despite being subject to enforcement action for similar breaches, and already having been given guidance at a project in London.

Exposed combustible material on exterior of the building. Credit: HSE

HSE inspector Jackie Western said: “The disturbing irony of this case is that work to protect residents from fire risk ended up making the situation more dangerous.

“This prosecution highlights the need for responsible management of the removal of cladding. The potentially tragic consequences of fire involving this type of material are well known following the Grenfell Tower fire.

“Despite earlier interventions and advice from HSE, and the availability of a wealth of guidance from HSE and others, this company continued to fail in its duty to address the risk of fire, putting people’s lives at risk.”

Green Facades Ltd, of Woolwich Road, London, pleaded guilty to the safety breaches at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court and was fined £240,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,405.

Chain of events

The HSE first visited the building on 10 January 2022 where it discovered that the combustible cladding had been exposed as part of preparation for the removal work. The inspection also uncovered inadequate means of escaping from the scaffolding being erected.

At a further visit on 21 January, more of the cladding was found exposed and there was no protection from potential sources of ignition. The combustible cladding material was also discovered lying on residents’ balconies.

The buildings were still occupied during the works and so the HSE contacted Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, which took its own enforcement action.

Combustible material exposed where scaffold is attached to the building. Credit: HSE
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