Dangerous scaffold costs firm owner

7 January 2015

The owner of a small construction firm has been fined after he erected a series of scaffolds in and around a town over several months in late 2013 that were riddled with dangerous faults.

The person put workers lives at risk by putting up scaffolds several metres high for them to work on but with potentially lethal defects that could have seen builders fall from unguarded platforms or through rotting wooden planks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the person at the Magistrates’ Court for safety breaches after investigating a particularly hazardous scaffold that he was responsible for last year. HSE attended as a result of a complaint made by a member of the public.

The court heard that the scaffold, erected, had numerous faults:

• It was not tied to the building so was insecure and more liable to collapse
• It lacked baseplates on many uprights, meaning that the scaffold could have sunk into the ground or ‘punched through’ any drains or cavities it was erected on
• There were few, if any, guardrails on the lifts – or working platforms – to prevent falls from height
• There was no bracing on the middle scaffold on the middle working platform giving rise to serious stability issues
• Many of the boards were rotten and damaged and could have broken under workers’ feet, sending them falling to the ground below.

Despite remedial work requested by HSE being carried out on the scaffold by the person, there were still defects.

The court was told that the person had received previous advice from HSE on poor scaffolding twice during  2013.

The person was fined a total of £1,600 and ordered to pay £600 in costs after admitting breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Work at Height Regulations.

After the hearing, HSE inspector said:

“The person not only erected numerous unsafe scaffolds, but also relied on his knowledge from training delivered in 1979 – more than 30 years earlier. He has now been prohibited from erecting scaffolds until he has completed further training to acquaint himself with up-to-date safety legislation and scaffolding standards.

“His failings created a risk of death or serious personal injury. Scaffolds are temporary structures and their integrity and safety must be ensured to, in turn, safeguard the workers and passers-by.”