1 Mar 2011

Tyneside firm sentenced after worker's fall from unsafe scaffold

A Tyneside construction company has been fined after a worker suffered serious injuries following a fall from unsafe scaffolding.
Ian Allan Building Contractors Ltd was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident in the grounds of the Old Vicarage, off Knaresborough Road, Murton, County Durham on 1 May 2009.

Consett Magistrates' Court heard Mr Kevin Clark, 54, from Swalwell, Gateshead, was working on the windows of a new building when the scaffolding platform he was standing on became dislodged, causing him to fall more than four metres to the ground.
Mr Clark suffered several crushed vertebrae in his spine and a fractured left foot and was in hospital for two weeks following the incident. The HSE investigation revealed that the company had failed to control alterations to the scaffolding, failed to conduct inspections of the scaffold at least every seven days, failed to identify and correct unsafe alterations and allowed workers to use unsafe scaffolding.

Ian Allan Building Contractors Ltd, of Jesmond Road, Jesmond, Newcastle, pleaded guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £1,500 at Consett Magistrates' Court.

After sentencing, Mr Clark said:
"I took it for granted the scaffolding I was working on was safe. If it had been checked properly the incident never would have happened and I wouldn't be left with the injuries I have to live with now.
"I've had steel rods put in my spine, I'm in constant pain and it restricts my movement and makes walking really difficult. I'll probably never be able to do the job I did again.
"I hope this prosecution helps make other employers realise the importance of ensuring scaffolding is safe so other workers don't have to suffer as I have."

After the case, HSE Construction Inspector Andrea Robbins said:
"This incident could and should have been prevented. Ian Allan Building Contractors Ltd failed in their legal duty to ensure the safety of its employees by failing to manage the scaffolding on site adequately.
"As a result of these failures, Mr Clark has suffered serious injuries and is still living with the effects of those injuries more than a year and a half later.
"Scaffolding is widely used as a temporary working platform or means of access and this incident clearly illustrates the absolute need to ensure that it is safe.
"I'd like to stress to all companies and employees who use scaffolding that it should always be constructed to a recognised standard, any alterations should only be made by a competent person and it should be inspected by a competent person on handover and at least every seven days as work progresses."

Falls from height are the biggest cause of fatal and major injuries in the construction and maintenance industry. During the three year period up to the end of 2010, there were 132 fatalities in relation to falls from height - 85 in the construction industry alone, two of which were in the North East.

HSE Bulletin No: NE/034/11(Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

Yet another reminder to anyone working at height on the importance of carrying out regular inspections of equipment - whether it be scaffolding, ladders, harnesses or other WAH equipment. The case above emphasises the dangers of assumption in the workplace - assumption that equipment is safe can lead to serious accidents if checks are not carried out as a result. The use of Good to Go Safety systems takes away the risk of assumption - providing a clear reminder that pre-use checks need to be carried out and displaying the findings once they have been. If the tag does not state that the equipment is 'Good to Go' with the relevant date on it then employees instantly know that a check should be carried out before they begin their work. For more information about the Good to Go Safety range please visit the website at http://www.goodtogosafety.co.uk/


  1. It's so sad to think about the suffering Mr. Clark - and his loved ones - are going through. Here's an example of the person behind the statistics and it's just so unnecessary. I send my very best wishes to Mr. Clark and I hope employers in this industry will work harder to protect the people who make their profit.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts Susan, which I'm sure many others will echo. It is frustrating that employees and their families continue to take the brunt of these incidents which could be easily avoidable. As is so often the case, actions only tend to be taken after an accident occurs, which is often too late for those involved.


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