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Safety probe halts work at scene of fatal building site explosion

'Your heart was huge': Wall of tributes to Stephen Hampton grows at former shopping parade in Highgate

20 April, 2017 — By William McLennan

Investigators at the scene of the blast last month

DEMOLITION work at a Highgate building site where a man died in an explosion has been halted by the government’s safety watchdog, it can be revealed today (Thursday).

Stephen Hampton, a much-loved grandfather who was part of a team decommissioning the former petrol station in Swains Lane, was taken to hospital after the March 16 blast, but died from his injuries. A police investigation continues a month after the death and work has yet to restart. It is believed a disused fuel tank was being cut into pieces at the time of the explosion.

The Health and Safety Executive has issued all contractors at the site with prohibition notices, which temporarily prevent them carrying out any further work. The details of the notices have not been made public, but contractors must address issues raised by safety inspectors before work can begin again. It is not known if the prohibition notices relate directly to the fatality or other aspects of the demolition.

According to the HSE, notices are issued when there has been a “breach” of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The contractors have 21 days to appeal the notice. The fatality shocked many living near the site. In the aftermath well-wishers left floral tributes at the scene. One included the note “No one should die on a building site.”

Mr Hampton, known as Steve, had been commuting from the home he shared with his wife in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. His family and friends created a wall of tributes at the entrance to the site earlier this month. One read: “You were taken from us too soon. You have left a big empty space in your family’s and friends’ lives. You loved your work but were always there to help anyone. Your heart was huge.”

Mr Hampton had been part of a team working on the redevelopment of a parade which, after a 10-year planning battle, is to be transformed into a new block of flats and shops. Work had started at the turn of the year to take down the 1930s-built, single-storey parade, once home to popular, independent businesses. As well as the demolition and preparation of the land for construction, teams were working on decontaminating the site and removing long-defunct petrol tanks.

PJ Labour, which employed Mr Hampton, refused to answer any questions and repeatedly hung up when contacted by phone. In response to an email from the New Journal, company director Jo Harris said: “There will be no response. Respect our privacy.”

Materials Movement Ltd, another contractor working on the demolition, did not respond to repeated requests to comment. A spokeswoman for developer Noble House said: “We are still waiting confirmation from the specialist sub-contractor that investigations between themselves and Health and Safety are complete and that the council will authorise them to continue with the demolition works. We understand they expect consent to commence works on-site within the next 10 days.”

A spokesman for the HSE said it was working with the Metropolitan Police following the death. “The investigation, being led by the police, is ongoing,” he added. “HSE inspectors have served prohibition notices on the contractors connected to the site stopping them from undertaking further works. The notices will need to be complied with before work can recommence on the site.”

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