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Firm fined for unsafe Oxfordshire scaffolds

Date:
3 February 2014

A scaffolding firm has been fined for dangerous scaffold installations at sites in Wantage and Oxford.

Workers and passing members of the public alike were placed at risk because of faults with the structures, which included missing ties, bracing and vehicle impact protection.

West Hagbourne-based ASW Scaffolding Limited was prosecuted today (3 February) after the deficiencies were identified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that the first unsafe scaffold was installed in Grove Street, Wantage, in July 2012, to support the refurbishment of a retail unit.

When HSE inspectors visited the site on 17 July they found a lack of ties and missing ledger bracing, which are designed to provide support and rigidity. The scaffold was also lacking vehicle impact protection, which was vital at the location in question because the scaffold was on a very narrow street and could easily have been struck by a passing car. This in turn could have caused it to fall into the street.

HSE worked with Oxfordshire County Council to highlight the faults because the scaffold did not comply with a street licence that had been granted for the structure.

Satisfactory remedial work subsequently took place, but on 28 March 2013 a passing HSE inspector witnessed unsafe activity on another ASW scaffold on Banbury Road in Oxford.

On this occasion an employee was working on a partially-completed structure with no guard rails or other safety features to prevent a fall.

A Prohibition Notice was immediately served to stop any further work until it was made safe.

ASW Scaffolding Limited, of West Hagborne, south Oxfordshire, was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay £5,438 in costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector John Caboche commented:

“The faults we identified at the Wantage installation should have been immediately obvious from a simple check after it was erected, which is vital to ensure that everything is in place and as it should be.

“The scaffold lacked rigidity and could have been hit by a passing vehicle, putting workers and passers-by in danger had it come down.

“With regard to the Oxford structure, the standards for safe working at height are well known within the scaffolding industry. The failings here were compounded by a senior member of the company’s management seemingly turning a blind eye. He was on site at the time but did nothing to prevent the scaffolder working in this way.

“Both scaffolds fell short of the required safety standards and posed a clear risk.”

Further information on working safely at height can be found at 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. 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. 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.”

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