A construction firm has been fined £5,000 over “Dickensian” conditions during the refurbishment of a listed building in Preston.
RNT Developments and Construction Ltd brought in roofers, damp treatment experts, electricians, joiners and plasters to work on the Harris Institute in Avenham Lane - but failed to provide them with toilets or running water.
Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered workers were using wet wipes and paper towels to clean themselves and had to leave the site to find toilets elsewhere.
Preston Magistrates’ Court heard refurbishment work had started on the former university building in January, but HSE were not alerted to problems until a site visit on February 19.
The building had been empty for two years before the work started and the water supply had been turned off, making toilets unusable and the building was very cold inside.
RNT of Sheldrake Road in Broadheath, Altrincham, 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.
HSE 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 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.”
The Harris Institute was once home to the University of Central Lancashire’s performing arts students but it was sold in 2009 for conversion into an Islamic education centre.