Roofing firm breached construction regulations before The Christie fire but will not be prosecuted

A roofing company violated safety regulations for the devastating Christie hospital fire of 2017 — but won’t be prosecuted.

Instead, the Health and Safety Executive has issued a “notice of violation” against the company.

The HSE concluded after a three-and-a-half-year investigation that the company had violated building regulations, but decided it did not warrant prosecution.

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The HSE concluded after a three-and-a-half-year investigation that the company had violated building regulations, but decided it did not warrant prosecution.

Instead, it issued a Notice of Contravention (NoC). The HSE charges £160 per hour for the issuance of the notice.

The fire broke out on April 26, 2017, and at its peak, 32 fire trucks were dispatched to what had been declared a major incident.

The Paterson building, which was used as a research center by the University of Manchester and Cancer Research UK, was badly damaged. It was later demolished and is being rebuilt at a cost of £150m.

Years of valuable research and equipment were lost in the fire, and more than 300 scientists and support personnel were relocated.

Manchester Evening News readers responded by raising £104,000 for Cancer Research UK.

Insurance companies paid out a total of £17 million for the damage.

The fire at Christie Hospital at its peak on April 26, 2017. Thirty-two fire engines were dispatched to the scene

After a large-scale investigation, a report released in January 2018 concluded that the fire was caused by welding work on the roof.

Now the Manchester Evening News can reveal that the Health and Safety Executive later took action against the company involved.

The Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service report revealed:

  • The fire may have started while contracted workers had a tea break
  • The fire was only discovered 30 minutes ago
  • Hot welding debris fell undetected down the side of a wall and landed on cardboard and fabric
  • After the fire, unknown people gained unauthorized access to the roof of the damaged building and removed power tools and hand tools

The MEN understands that a smoke and fire alarm for the floor where the fire started was turned off.

The report was released after “extensive” forensics, interviews and reconstructions, fire chiefs said.

The bosses of the welding company, Helix Roofing Contractors Ltd of Wallasey, Merseyside, said they disagreed with the findings, calling them just a ‘hypothesis’.

“It looks like someone should be blamed, even if there’s no clear evidence,” they said in a statement in January 2018.

The company said its employees are “conscientious and well-trained” and that it does not believe they caused the fire.

The damage caused by the fire in the Paterson Building at Christie Hospital in April 2017

In a statement to the Manchester Evening News this week, the HSE said: “HSE was conducting an investigation into the 2017 fire at Christie Hospital.

“The investigation was concluded in October 2020 and as a result of the findings, a Notification of Contravention (NoC) was issued to Helix Roofing Contractors Ltd.”

A spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive said: “A full investigation has been conducted and the evidence gathered has been carefully considered.

“As a result, it was determined that a Notification of Contravention (NoC) had to be issued; we identified violations in relation to the Building Regulations (Design and Management) 2015 namely that there were issues with combustible materials being welded, as well as fire watch arrangements .

“The investigation was concluded in October 2020 with all actions completed.”

The HSE said evidence was being considered against the Code for Crown Prosecutors to see if prosecution was warranted.

But based on the information gathered, they concluded that a NoC “would be the most appropriate form of enforcement.”

The identified NoC-specific violations relate to Regulation 29(1)(a) and Regulation 13(1) of the Building Regulations (Design and Management) 2015.

Regulation 13(1) states: “The prime contractor shall plan, manage and monitor the construction phase and coordinate health and safety matters during the construction phase to ensure that, to the extent reasonably possible, the construction work is carried out without risk to health.” or safety.”

Regulation 29(1)(a) says, “Appropriate and sufficient measures shall be taken to prevent, so far as reasonably practicable, the risk of injury to any person during the performance of construction work due to – (a) fire.”

The HSE says, “A NoC is issued when a material breach is identified. A material breach is something that an inspector deems serious enough to formally write to the company that action must be taken to address the material breach. If the If the inspector gives you a Report of Violation (NoC) after his visit, you must pay a fee.

“The NoC must include: the law that the inspector believes has been violated; the reason(s) for their opinion; notification that a fee is owed to HSE.

“If the company has already taken steps to address the material breach, the NoC would state that matters have already been addressed, but if action is still required, it would ask the controller to provide any evidence/feedback that the case was handled within an appropriate time frame.”

Damage caused to the Paterson building at The Christie

The fire broke out on the third floor of the building currently in use, containing a technical room, a corridor full of electrical units, an office and sterilization rooms.

According to the GMFRS report, workers from Helix Roofing Ltd had cut the roof to attach a metal post to a metal beam.

It said: “During welding, hot drops from the process and hot spent rods fell through the hole.

“They fell down the side of the wall where it was undetected by the fire watch and landed on cardboard and cloth objects.”

The fire was only discovered after half an hour and the airflow in the area allowed the fire to quickly develop into a serious incident.

In response to the report’s findings, bosses at Helix Roofing Contractors of Wallasey, Merseyside, claimed in 2018 that the cause of the fire had not been proven and said it was ‘unlikely’ that welding was the reason.

The company said: “After nine months of investigation by six investigation teams, the cause of the fire is not certain, but it is a hypothesis.

“The report’s conclusion claims that the ‘most likely’ cause of the fire is embers and spatter produced by the welding process.

“The report makes several references to electrical sparks occurring at the most likely point of origin of the fire.

“This is apparently disregarded as the cause of the fire, despite our understanding that not all the ‘wiring’ of the transformers has been restored, so a malfunction or arc incident in that equipment cannot be ruled out.”

Asked to comment on the publication of the violation notice, a Helix spokesperson said in a statement: “We can confirm that we have nothing more to add to our previous statement.”

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