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Fine Set in Church Building Collapse

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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A UK contractor who used the wrong bolts to secure a two-story portable church building where children were playing is being held liable in the incident.

About 30 children and parents had been playing in the lower building when a bolt on the jacking leg of the unit sheared off and the top part of the leg came out of the wooden frame.

Two volunteers, one partially blind, were working in the upper-level food bank when the collapse occurred. The upper building came to rest on the lower one, but the other three legs held while cans rolled off food cupboard shelves and the panicked occupants fled. No serious injuries were reported.

AshbourneElimChurch AshbourneElimChurch
Ashbourne Elim Evangelical Church

A government inspector said the supplier had used smaller bolts, not designed for the purpose, to secure the two-story structure (not pictured), "meaning they would fail at some time in the future." The collapse occurred one month later.

Now, Relocatable Building Systems Ltd. (RBS) has pleaded guilty in Magistrates' Court to two violations of the UK's workplace safety law and has been fined a total of £8,000 with £1,589 costs (about $14,832 USD) in the case.


“It was horrific," the Rev. Ben Brown, whose wife and two-year-old son were in the lower room at the time, said in a release issued by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

“It was a complete miracle that it did not fall further but came to rest where it did," said the senior pastor at Ashbourne Elim Pentecostal Church in Derbyshire.

"Another half inch, and the consequences would have been devastating. I think someone was certainly looking after us that day."

Bolt Substitution

An HSE investigation found that RBS had refurbished the buildings before installing them at the church in September 2013.

Relocatable Building Systems

RBS is a supplier of portable and modular single- and multi-story buildings.

"New inner sections of the jacking legs were installed, but the original pins, used to adjust the height of the legs, could not be fitted due to the holes not being drilled to the correct size," HSE said.

"Instead, smaller bolts, which were not designed for this purpose, were used, meaning they would fail at some time in the future."

The collapse occurred one month later.

'Very Lucky'

RBS, a supplier of modular and portable buildings, says it has been in business for more than 20 years.

HSE inspector Steve Shaw said the company did not conduct a final check of the work and the bolts.

"It is very lucky that the top cabin stayed in contact with three of the jacking legs as this prevented the full weight coming to rest on the wooden frame of the lower unit where children were playing," Shaw said.

"The wooden frames are not designed to take the weight of an upper unit, so it could have quite easily come crashing down with horrific consequences."

Lingering Fears

Brown said the incident "destroyed" the community's confidence in the church "through no fault of our own, and we had to build that trust back up again."

"There is still some suspicion, and a few people still refuse to go in the buildings, even though they’ve been back in place for over a year."


Tagged categories: Construction; Enforcement; Prefabrication; Renovation

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