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Construction worker dies in masonry wall collapse

A CONSTRUCTION worker died this week after a section of masonry wall collapsed on him on Monday afternoon during underpinning work for a church refurbishment in London.

Recovery of the man's body was delayed while engineers worked to make the scene structurally safe on the order of Health & Safety Executive inspectors.

The man - believed to have been from Romania - was working on a subcontract to main contractor Dave O'Keefe on the project to refurbish the Grade I listed St Mary's Church at Bryanston Square in Marylebone for client St Paul's Anglican Fellowship.

The building had been gutted ahead of underpinning work, which began last week. The dead man had been working at the bottom of the south east wall in the basement of the late 19th century church when a section of it collapsed.

The underpinning was to strengthen wall foundations to enable installation of a staircase which was to have been fixed to the wall.

HSE inspectors at the scene said an array of extensive temporary works had been designed by one firm of engineers for the work inside the church, but that other engineers had been involved in the underpinning work. No details were given of the firms involved.

Underpinning involves excavating sections or 'bays' of soil underneath a structure and filling them with concrete to form a new foundation.

Critical aspects of safe underpinning include ensuring bays are designed and constructed to the correct width for the ground and load conditions, and that they are never constructed sequentially, which risks undermining the structure.

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