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Company fined £8,000 after portable building collapses on churchgoers

A Derbyshire company has been fined £8,000 after a two-storey portable building collapsed while more than 30 children and parents were playing in the lower room.

The incident happened at Ashbourne Elim Pentecostal Church in Derbyshire while two volunteers – one of them partially sighted – were preparing parcels for the church’s foodbank in the upper cabin.

After the upper cabin came to rest on the roof of the lower one at one corner, a number of food items fell 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.

South Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court was told that the two cabins had been refurbished and installed by Relocatable Building Systems Ltd in September 2013.

A month later, on 24th 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.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the company had refurbished the buildings before their installation at the church but incorrect bolts had been 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 Industrial Estate, Sutton Lane, Hilton, Derby, was also ordered to pay £1,589 costs after admitting two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Steve Shaw said: “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.”

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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