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Scaffolder fined after woman injured by unguarded metal pole

11 February 2013

A self-employed scaffolder has been fined after a member of the public suffered head injuries after walking into an unguarded metal pole.

Rothesay Sheriff Court was told today (11 Feb) that Thomas Hannen was contracted by Argyll and Bute Council in January 2011 to erect scaffolding around the disused Royal Hotel on Rothesay seafront, on the Isle of Bute, so the council could assess the building’s condition.

Early on 26 January, Mr Hannen and two employees began erecting the scaffolding. Members of the public were not excluded, or in any way actively discouraged, from using the pavement beneath the work area.

Later that morning a council surveyor visited the site and drew Mr Hannen’s attention to an upright scaffolding pole that was obstructing the pavement. Before he left the site he mentioned to Mr Hannen that it was a busy pavement and that he should ensure people were safe.

As a result, a scaffolding pole was placed horizontally between two of the upright poles at a height of about 1.5 metres above ground level. No padding or warning tape was wrapped around it to soften any inadvertent contact, make it easily visible or to alert members of the public to its presence.

Later that morning, a 61-year-old local woman walking underneath the scaffolding, hit her head on the horizontal pole. She was taken to hospital with a head injury which required stitches, and more seriously, fractures to her left ankle caused by her falling as a result of her impact with the pole.

An investigation into the incident by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Thomas Hannen failed to:

  • take advantage of the offer made to him by the local authority building standards officer to have the footpath where he was working temporarily closed;
  • complete any risk assessment or, alternatively, any risk assessment that was completed appears to have been wholly inadequate and did not guard against risk to pedestrians;
  • erect a scaffold on a pavement with any diversion in place to exclude members of the public from the work area;
  • display any warning signs alerting the public that it was dangerous to be in the work area such as putting padding or warning tape around any of the scaffolding poles prior to the incident;
  • instruct his workers to attach padding or tape around the scaffolding under erection.

Thomas Hannen, 62, of, Ascog, Rothesay, was fined £1,670 after pleading guilty to breaching sections 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After sentencing, HSE Inspector Gerry Muir, said:

"This was an awful accident to a member of the public that could easily have been avoided had Mr Hannen taken some simple, readily available precautions.

"Anyone planning construction work in public places should ensure they carry out a risk assessment that identifies potential dangers to members of the public and take adequate steps to prevent them."

For more information and guidance about health and safety in the construction industry log on to the HSE website at:

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. In Scotland the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.
  3. Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.

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