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Fines imposed for dangerous scaffolding work

Date:
5 June 2014

Carefree scaffolders put themselves and passers-by in danger as they worked unsafely at height above a busy Covent Garden street, a court has heard.

A nearby member of the public was so concerned about an imminent fall in Tavistock Street on 20 June 2013 they captured the work on camera and sent the images to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Clerkenwell-based JOS Scaffolding Limited was prosecuted yesterday (4 June) on the strength of the photographic evidence and a subsequent HSE investigation into safety failings.

Westminster Magistrates Court heard the firm was responsible for erecting a five-storey scaffold that was some ten metres above street level once complete.

The unsafe work was during the initial construction phase as the structure took shape. Pictures showed workers using unsecure and precariously balanced boards to access and pass materials to higher levels. They also showed a worker sitting near the top of the structure casually dangling his legs over the side.

Magistrates were told there was nothing in place at this point of the work to prevent or mitigate a fall of persons or equipment or materials. This in turn put anyone walking underneath or alongside the scaffold at risk.

HSE established the work was poorly planned and managed, and that two of the three-man team erecting the scaffold were lacking training and accreditation to prove their competence.

In short, the work fell well below the legally required standard – although both HSE and the court acknowledged that efforts had been made to improve standards once the failings were brought to the company’s attention.

JOS Scaffolding Limited, of Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1, was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay £734 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented:

“Scaffolding work is fraught with risk and can be extremely dangerous if it isn’t carried out properly. The standards here were sorely lacking and the photographic evidence speaks for itself in terms of the risks taken.

“None of the missing measures, such as guard rails and secured boards and ladders, were difficult to provide, and there was no excuse.   “It isn’t just the workers themselves who could end up getting seriously hurt or killed. People should be able to walk along a pavement without having to worry about a piece of scaffold slipping from the hands of an overhead worker.

“Thankfully nobody was injured, but that doesn’t detract from JOS Scaffolding failing to ensure the work at height was properly planned, managed and executed in a safe manner. I would like to thank the concerned member of the public who brought the matter to our attention and who provided such clear visual evidence.”

For further information about working safely at height visit www.hse.gov.uk/falls

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. Regulation 6(3) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Where work is carried out at height, every employer shall take suitable and sufficient measures to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, any person falling a distance liable to cause personal injury.”
  3. Regulation 10(1) states: “Every employer shall, where necessary to prevent injury to any person, take suitable and sufficient steps to prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, the fall of any material or object.”

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