Work to the building was being carried out by the retailer with no construction plan

Clothing importer Citytex UK was fined £10,000 yesterday after the partial collapse of a building under construction in February 2007 when there were more than 20 people inside.

Citytex UK pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 25 September last year after the collapse of the building on Commercial Road, Tower Hamlets in London.

On 13 February 2007, the company’s employees were working throughout the building while builders were on the site. Work was being carried out on a wall at first floor level at the front of the building. A large gap had been made in the brick work The front elevation collapsed, but the scaffolding fell onto a lamppost preventing much of the rubble landing on passers-by and on the road.

The road was closed for several days while rescuers searched the rubble for any victims. No one was killed or injured.

But yesterday, at Westminster Magistrates Court, the company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £35,000 and £200 each to four people who were in the building when it collapsed.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that plans for the work had been drawn up by architects and structural consultants. The managing director of the clothing company was acting as the principal contractor and was being assisted by his teenage son. There was no construction phase plan and the architect was not aware that any work was being carried out on the first floor and HSE had not been notified that any improvement work was taking place.

HSE inspector, Sarah Snelling, said: "More than 20 people were in this building when it collapsed and it was sheer luck that no one was seriously injured or even killed in this incident. Construction work must be planned and carried out by competent builders. If not, it can lead to a number of risks including collapse."