4 Feb 2011

South Yorkshire glazing firm fined after fall from unsafe scaffold

A South Yorkshire glazing firm has been sentenced after an employee was hurt when he fell more than ten feet from an unsafe scaffold.

Phillip Pears, then 20, broke his wrist in the incident while replacing fascias for Premier Security Glazing Ltd at a house in York in June 2009.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that Mr Pears, another colleague, and Premier's managing director had erected two tower scaffolds ten feet apart. Wooden boards were then spaced across the gaps to make one extended platform from which to work. There were no handrails on the scaffolds or the boards.

Mr Pears climbed a ladder leaning against the scaffold and stepped onto an unsecured board which had been used in erecting the tower. The board slipped and he fell 3.5 metres to the pavement below, fracturing his wrist and bruising his back.

York Magistrates Court heard that Mr Pears had not been trained in the safe use of tower scaffolds, but was regularly expected to use them.

The court heard Mexborough-based Premier Security Glazing Ltd had employed a risk adviser some months before the incident. It had even received a health and safety audit on its systems of work, including recommendations for safe working at height and the correct use of tower scaffolds. However, the company had not implemented these recommendations.

The firm of Marriot Road, Swinton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of their employees and was fined £2,500 with £2,644.90 costs

HSE Inspector Sarah Lee said:

"The dangers of working from poorly-erected tower scaffolds are well known and are responsible for many injuries each year. Had the company followed widely-available guidance from HSE, the manufacturer's instructions, or the findings of the company's own safety audit then this incident could have been easily prevented."

"Companies must realise that it is not acceptable to expect their employees to use work equipment without the proper training. Mr. Pears has made a full recovery but so often these types of incidents have fatal consequences."

In 2008/2009 more than 4,000 major injuries were caused by falls from height at work.

HSE Bulletin No: YH/15 /11
(Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

 

The fact that the company had gone to the expense of employing a risk assessor and received recommendations on how to work at height safely makes this incident even more preventable. Good to Go Safety can provide tagging and inspection systems for scaffold towers which can help ensure that the tower is safe for use. The main problem in this case however appears to be the lack of training on how to use a scaffold tower safely in the first instance. Once trained, a competent person would be able to carry out a pre-use inspection of the tower using the Good to Go Safety system - click here for details - and help prevent incidents like this from happening in the future.

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