Freezing with no water or toilets: Trafford firm prosecuted after workers subjected to ‘Dickensian’ conditions

By Danielle Wainwright

An Altrincham construction firm who forced its subcontractors to work in freezing conditions without water or toilets for nearly seven weeks in Preston was fined yesterday.

RNT Developments and Construction Ltd brought in roofers, damp treatment experts, electricians, joiners and plasters to work on the nineteenth century Harris Institute.

Yet they failed to ensure adequate facilities were available and when a Health and Safety Executive visited the site, they found that workers had to use wet wipes and paper towels to clean themselves, and leave the site to find toilets elsewhere in the city.

The building was also freezing cold and six skips of plaster and rotten and dusty floorboards had to be removed.

Speaking after the hearing, Health and Safety Executive Inspector Stuart Kitchingman said: “It would have been easy for RNT to reinstate the existing welfare facilities in the building, but instead the firm allowed work to be carried out in grimy and dusty conditions for nearly seven weeks without access to the most basic facilities.

“It’s totally unacceptable in the twenty-first century to find Dickensian-like conditions. In fact, it’s a legal requirement that workers aren’t treated in this way.

“The working conditions were archaic – more like they would have been when the building was first erected in Victorian times – and will no longer be tolerated in the 21st Century.

“RNT should have made sure there were welfare facilities on the site before it allowed the refurbishment project to start. Instead, workers had to face needlessly unpleasant conditions over several weeks.”

Refurbishment began on the building on January 3 yet inspectors were not made aware of the conditions until February 19

Magistrates were told that the three-storey building had been empty for two years before the work started and the water supply had been turned off, which meant the existing toilets could not be used. The temperature inside the building was also bitterly cold.

The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £1,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

More information on the welfare facilities required on construction sites is available at

Picture courtesy of Nolene Dowdall via Flickr, with thanks.

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