Scaffolder in court over worker’s fractured skull

A West Midlands scaffolder has received a four month prison sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay compensation of £2,500, after a construction worker suffered a fractured skull when a pulley wheel fell seven metres and struck his head.

Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard the 27-year-old , from Darlaston, was installing lead flashing on a school roof  using lifting equipment installed by a company, when the incident happened on 8 August 2013. 

The person, who was working for a sub-contractor on the site, was operating a ‘gin wheel’, or metal pulley wheel, which is used to hoist and lower materials with ropes. The wheel had been attached to the scaffold by the company.

As the person was loading materials from the ground ready for lifting to the roof, the wheel, weighing four kg, fell seven meters from the scaffold and struck him on the head fracturing his skull. He has since made a full recovery.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the company had failed to properly secure the gin wheel to the scaffold – no scaffold fittings were used to prevent the gin wheel from falling off the end of the scaffold tube, and the supporting structure was inadequately braced.

The company from the West Midlands, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 10(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 and received a four month prison sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay the person compensation of £2,500, plus £527.56 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector  said: “This incident was entirely preventable and could easily have been avoided had the company followed the published guidance to attach the wheel securely. Gin wheels are a common accessory for scaffolders and must be attached correctly. The installation of this gin wheel fell far short of the expected standard and made it almost inevitable that it would fall from the scaffold endangering anyone walking beneath.

“The person suffered a fracture to his skull, but it is nothing more than luck that he was not more seriously injured, or even killed.

“If you are installing scaffolding or associated lifting equipment, it must be left in a safe condition. The quality of work could make the difference between life or death.”

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 10(1) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 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.”