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Poole contractor in court after falling steel injures workers

Date:
6 August 2014

Two workers were left with broken bones but escaped with their lives after being struck by a length of steel that fell from nine floors above them, a court has heard. 

Ryan Smith, 31, damaged a vertebrae and was forced to wear a brace for several months as a result of the incident at a renovation project in Bournemouth on 16 July 2013. Co-worker Paul Martret, 42, suffered a fractured elbow as a result of the blow. 

East Dorset Magistrates’ Court was told today (6 August) that both could have been killed by the falling object, which was knocked into a stairwell during work from a temporary platform. 

Harbourview Developments Ltd appeared in court as the principal contractor for the refurbishment and conversion of two properties on Christchurch Road. 

The work involved removing a stairwell and converting it into a lift shaft. A temporary platform was created using a series of scaffold planks resting on a scaffold tube structure, which was then put in place over the opening to the stairwell. 

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that work had started to fit a series of vertical and horizontal steel sections around the stairwell to facilitate the construction of additional floors and walls. The installation of the steel sections involved chipping concrete around the edges underneath the temporary platform, which created a series of gaps up to 16cm wide along the edges. 

On 16 July 2013, a subcontractor placed a 1.4 metre, 5kg piece of steel on a structural beam running parallel to the temporary work platform in order to step over it. However, he knocked the steel as he raised his leg, sending it plunging into a gap in the stairwell and towards the workers nine floors below.   

They were unable to move away in time and it struck them on their back and elbow respectively. 

Magistrates heard the incident could have been avoided had Harbourview Developments Ltd better managed the temporary works to ensure there was no risk from falling materials.  

The company, of ArenaBusinessPark, Poole, which is now in liquidation was fined a token amount of £1 after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 8(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. 

Speaking after sentencing HSE inspector Ian Whittles, said: “Mr Smith and Mr Martret sustained painful injuries, but could both have been killed by the falling metal, which struck them from height, at speed and without warning. 

“Harbourview Developments failed to ensure that the refurbishment activity was carried out without presenting a danger. The incident was clearly preventable by using a combination of boarding and debris netting to create a safer working platform where materials or objects couldn’t fall through. 

“Working at height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. It is a high risk activity that requires careful planning and execution at all times.” 

Information working at height is available on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/height.htm 

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 8(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that: “Every employer shall ensure that, in the case of a working platform (i) Part 1 of Schedule 3 is complied with; and (ii) where scaffolding is provided, Part 2 of Schedule 3 is also complied with. 
  3. Schedule 3: Safety on working platforms. A working platform shall— (a) be of sufficient dimensions to permit the safe passage of persons and the safe use of any plant or materials required to be used and to provide a safe working area having regard to the work being carried out there; (b) possess a suitable surface and, in particular, be so constructed that the surface of the working platform has no gap— (i) through which a person could fall; (ii) through which any material or object could fall and injure a person; or  (iii) giving rise to other risk of injury to any person, unless measures have been taken to protect persons against such risk. 
  4. HSE news releases are available at press.hse.gov.uk 

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