Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Howard Civil Engineering Ltd admitted to failing to take necessary steps to prevent access by unauthorised persons to their construction site (a breach of Regulation 13(4)(b) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015) and failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that members of the public were not exposed to risks to their health and safety (a breach of section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974).

Seven-year-old Conley Thompson went missing from his home on 26 July 2015 and was found the next day by construction workers on Howard Civil Engineering’s site in South Yorkshire. The investigation found that Conley was able to access the site and became trapped in a vertical drainage pipe which had been fixed in the ground prior to the installation of fencing posts where he sadly suffocated. The new build housing development stood next to an existing housing estate and busy pedestrian footpaths and roads.

The site had no security guards for almost a fortnight and the fencing around the site was insufficient, with some panels missing. Howard Civil Engineering Ltd was fined £600,000 and ordered to pay £42,952.88 in costs.

HSE inspector, Paul Yeadon said that,

“The construction industry should be aware of the dangers of construction sites to members of the public and any other unauthorised persons.

“The dangers to children gaining access to construction sites and treating them like a playground is an ongoing problem which must be addressed at all types of sites no matter what their complexity or size.

“The industry must do all it can to ensure children can’t access construction sites and be exposed to the inherent risks they present to prevent further tragedies like this from occurring.”

All organisations that are carrying out works, whether big or small, should ensure that adequate planning, management and monitoring of sites and their perimeters are in place. The steps taken must be driven by a risk assessment of the site in question; this assessment should consider the location and nature of the site and the specific risks this may give rise to, keeping in mind that the assessment must include not only risks to employees and contractors but also to any member of the public who could gain access to the site whether authorised or not.