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House builder and site manager prosecuted after bricklayer's fatal fall

Date:
5 September 2013

A Lincolnshire house building company has been fined and a site manager sentenced to community service after a self-employed bricklayer fell to his death from dangerous scaffolding.

Justin Gillman, 26, of Holland Fen near Boston, Lincolnshire, died when he fell backwards almost two metres while working on a residential building site in Skegness on 26 February, 2010.

Chestnut Homes Ltd and their site manager, Peter Tute, were sentenced at Lincoln Crown Court today (5 September) after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious safety failings.

They included allowing untrained people to build scaffolding, failing to check it was safe for use and for failing to ensure the safety of workers once it was in use.

The court was told that Mr Gillman and a colleague were told by Mr Tute to extend some scaffolding around the walls of a block of three terraced houses being built.

Neither were qualified or had any experience of erecting scaffolding, and as the site manager Mr Tute should not have entrusted them with the task. Mr Tute should have brought back a scaffold contractor to do the work.

HSE inspectors established that Mr Tute did not provide Mr Gillman or his colleague with any instructions in how to build the scaffolding and left them to improvise and get on with it.

They built a scaffolding platform that had no guard and the structure was a different height to existing scaffolding on the rest of the plots. As such, it was unsafe and posed a clear risk.

However, according to the Scaffold Inspection Record for the site, the whole scaffold was inspected on the day Mr Gillman died and was adjudged as being safe by Mr Tute.

On the day of the fatal fall, the weather was too poor for bricklaying so Mr Gillman and his colleague decided to load out the scaffolding with bricks for work the following Monday.

Having loaded out two sides of the scaffolding, Mr Gillman loaded a further band of 80 bricks on a trolley and pulled it backwards, past some guard rails that were raised out of the way, and up a makeshift ramp onto the scaffolding.

Mr Gillman fell backwards from the end of the unsafe scaffold where there was no guard rail to prevent him falling. The band of bricks he was pulling landed on him, and he died at the scene of his injuries.

Chestnut Homes Ltd of Wragby Road, Langworth, Lincoln were fined £40,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Mr Peter Tute, 50, of Donington Park, Lincoln, was ordered to carry out 240 hours community service after pleading guilty to breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The court will determine the amount of costs to be paid at a later date.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Richard Lockwood said:

"Before entrusting tasks to workers, principal contractors and site managers must ensure they are competent to do the task being given to them.

"There needs to be adequate control over scaffolding to ensure that it is and remains safe and fit for the purpose.

"Principal contractors must have robust systems that ensure that their policies and procedures are implemented properly on their sites."

Justin’s father, Alan Gillman, added:

"Justin was a very hardworking chap who enjoyed working in construction.

"He was building his own home for him and his girlfriend and he loved stock car racing. He’d been into racing cars since he was about eight-years-old.

"He generally enjoyed life and never had a bad word to say about anyone.

"If something positive can come from this case, and Justin’s death, it’s that I just hope people will be prepared to say ‘no’ to their employer if they’re asked to do something they’re not trained to do, or it wouldn’t be safe for them to do."

For more information about the Health and Safety Executive’s work with the construction industry, go to www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/industry/construction

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."
  3. Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employee while at work to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work."

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