28 Apr 2011

£3,000 fine following fatal Bristol scaffold fall

The owner of a Bristol scaffolding company has been fined after the death of one of its employees who fell from a temporary roof he was dismantling.

Shaun Stevens, 41, fell about four metres while deconstructing a temporary corrugated sheet roof at Flooks Scaffolding at the Old Brains Factory, Bridge Road, Kingswood, Bristol, on 4 October 2006.

Mr Stevens from Bristol suffered serious head injuries as a result of his fall and was taken to hospital, where he died 12 days later.

Russell Lee Flook, trading as Flooks Scaffolding, of Tower Lane, Warmley, Bristol, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). He pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

The offences related to poor health and safety management practices, and an attempt to fake a method statement for the work. Inspectors asked for this key safety plan following the fall - but were given a document written the day after the incident.

Mr Flook was fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,000.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector, Sue Adsett, said:

"Corrugated tin temporary roofs are inherently dangerous to erect and dismantle. Employers need to reconsider how they do this work and not just repeat how they have done it in the past. There are now safer ways of working to be considered, using different materials and technologies.

"All employers have a duty to protect their employees and contractors. It is up to the scaffolding employer to make sure there is a safe system of work for erecting and dismantling temporary roofs and not leave the arrangements to workers.

"The law has changed over recent years with the introduction of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR), and employers need to make sure that they are fully aware of their duties."

Mr Steven's wife, Tanya Stevens, said after the case: "Shaun's death has left a huge void in our family: our daughters have no father to support them through life, and he is missing seeing our grand daughter grow up.

"Four and a half years on, we all still feel the loss of Shaun every day. He was a good father and husband and it has been hard for us all. We have struggled to cope with our grief at times and, as well as missing him greatly, I have had to deal with the emotional and financial strain of bringing up the girls single-handedly.

"I hope that Russell Flook has learnt from this and takes health and safety seriously on site, making sure his workers wear harnesses and work safely, so that no one else has to experience what we have gone through."

HSE Bulletin No: 766/SWW/11 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

The use of the correct equipment when working at height is of paramount importance to reduce risks to the absolute minimal level. A detailed and considered method statement will provide a critical element of completing the work safely and efficiently. It is both frustrating and annoying to see some firms continuing to cut corners and put the lives of their employees at risk in return for saving some money. 

Good to Go Safety have a firm belief in giving employers the chance to implement an easy and affordable solution to their equipment checks - providing them with a comprehensive audit trail of all inspections undertaken. For more information about these SEMS (safe equipment management systems) please visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk where you will find off-the-shelf systems for equipment including scaffolding, ladders, harnesses, MEWPs, forklifts and more.
26 Apr 2011

Construction Inspections

The HSE has launched it's latest podcast which takes a look at construction inspections and follows a walk-through of a construction site in Worcester where the HSE inspector highlights the types of questions he might ask and activities he would look out for during a visit. For a full version of the transcript or to listen to the full podcast please visit the HSE website by clicking here.

Transcript from HSE podcast
The UK construction industry employs more than 2 million people. Last year 42 workers were fatally injured and more than 2500 seriously hurt. We spent a morning with HSE inspector Luke Messenger as he visited a site in Worcester to take a look at what they were doing to protect people during the building works.

Now Luke this morning we're here in Worcester and we're going to have a quick look at this construction site here and looking at it there's a lot of scaffolding up there and it's also in quite a unusual situation, isn't it, in that it's between a road and a railway line?

The way I'm looking at it from this distance is thinking about transport risks around vehicle movements around and about the site, pedestrians on the road here. As far as the railway line's concerned I would have thought that they would need to be thinking about not coming into contact with the railway and any foundations and footings that were going on, taking into consideration the embankment and the stability of railway line.

As we walk forward we can see there's the traditional mesh fencing on the outside and a few road signs saying pedestrians please use the other footpath, is that the kind of thing you expect to see?

Yes, that's right. Contractors have to make sure that the site is kept safe and that people who aren't meant to be in the site are kept out, children in particular, so it's typical to see fencing of that type to keep people out. Signs warning people that it's a construction site and the risks on the site. Protective clothing they might have to wear.

My name's Mark Palfrey and I'm the site manager for Spectus Construction.

So what are you actually building here, what's this project?

It's 19 flats.

So, 19 flats. What is the situation with the inspection of this scaffold? You know it needs to be inspected every seven days?

I inspect it every seven days but every two weeks I actually get the scaffolders back and we go through it together.

Okay. So you've had some training in the inspection of scaffolds Mark?


The sorts of thing we're looking for there is to prevent people falling off scaffold. That we have a top gird rail and a middle guard rail. That we also have a toe board or an up stand so that objects can't fall off. What you've also got up there that's good is, because you've got bricks and blocks that could fall off, is that you've got brick guards up there to stop objects falling off on to people. You've also got debris netting to stop debris coming off. And what I'm generally looking at is, does it look right to me, has it got the right edge protection, has it got some bracing on it so that any movement of the scaffold is prevented? Is it footed on some suitable footing? Some nice stable ground. This is all sitting on concrete so it should be nice and stable. And I can see that there are base plates and wooden boards under the scaffold. Okay. Right I think we've seen as much as we can see from this side of the road. Shall we go and have a look at what some of the lads are doing inside?

Spot and dab. On the walls.

The plastering. Any particular risks with this activity?

Not particularly, no. Just lifting really.

Are they using any hop ups?

They're using hop ups.

To get a bit of access? So that's a relatively low step or something for them to reach up and plaster the ceilings. Just walking around as we walk into the site here as you get to this sort of stage what are you doing in terms of making sure that they keep the amount of debris on the floor to the minimum from the slips, trips point of view?

They're all responsible for their own mess. If they don't clear the mess up they get counter charged for it. If I have to get a labourer in they get counter charged. Plus they get a warning.

Mark, when we were in the site office I noticed up on the wall there that you had some sort of emergency plan, a fire plan. How are you managing fire risks on site?

During the induction they are given all the fire exits the position of all the fire extinguishers, emergency exits, the meeting area and the plan is always on the wall anyway. The only thing I need to do at the moment I think is to adapt it for each flat. There's only one way out of these flats.

As the build is developing you're getting different staircases, doorways and that built, your plan is changing so you'll review that on a regular basis?


So we've come up on to the scaffold, so we've had a good look at it from below so we've seen that it has all its guard rails on it that it needs to have. I noticed when we came up that you've got a bit of good practice there in that you've got there a gate at the top of the access ladder so that should be inwardly opening and shut behind you when you come up so that the access way is kept safe. We've come up to have a look at these guys who are doing some roofing work. The thing I'm interested in here is if they're cutting any tiles are they aware of the risks from breathing in silica dust.

Should be wearing a mask and they should be wearing goggles and ear protection.

So we're here in the site office now and what kind of things are you looking for in the paperwork?

Well the paperwork, what we must remember, is a means to an end. It's what's going on out on site that's most important for me as an inspector, but Mark here as the site manager has certain responsibilities to keep certain pieces of paperwork on site. So initially the sort of things I'm looking for is that he's got a copy of the notification of this site to the Health and Safety Executive up on the wall. I can see that up on the wall as well he's got his loading plans, so a plan of how he's moving materials around the site, a very simple diagram but that's all it needs to be if it's clear to the workers on site then it does it's job.

Mark, just also before we finish today, engagement with the workers, keeping the workers informed of health and safety issues and how you're keeping them safe and them raising issues with you. How do you do that on your site?

Usually first thing in the morning we all meet to discuss the days work and then if there's a certain issued coming up as in dust, noise or anything else, everybody on the site is warned in that sort of little meeting.

So you have a meeting every morning when you can tell them or express to them particular risks on site, or things have changed. Is that also a forum where they can ask you questions and raise concerns?

Yes. I always express to them that if they've got any issues, come and see me. If there's a mess somewhere left by anybody come and see me. If there's a trip issue, come and see me. So yeah, we got quite a good circuit going on there.

Thank you very much.

*End of transcript*

For more information on how Good to Go Safety can help ensure the necessary checks are being completed on your scaffolding please click here to visit the Good to Go Safety website.
14 Apr 2011

Safety alert issued for steel pole ladders

The National Access & Scaffolding Confederation (NASC) have recently issued a safety alert after the HSE imposed a prohibition notice on a scaffold contractor (non-NASC member) about the use of a particular type of steel pole ladder following a reported fall from height.

The HSE noted that the steel pole ladder used as ladder access on the scaffold did not have any grip/tread on the rungs and as such was in breach of the provision of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 Regulation 4 (1). You can view the full version of the NASC safety alert at their website or by clicking here.

The image above shows the type of ladder in question, issues include the fact that the ladder does not comply with the relevant standards (ie. EN 131), the treads do not provide any form of anti-slip protection in the form of ribbed or textured profiling, nor do the feet appear to offer any form of anti-slip protection.

In general, ladders account for a third of all reorted fall from height incidents. It is important that employers provide ladders in compliance with the Provision & Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER). The Good to Go Safety system provides a list of essential checks to be carries out on the ladder prior to use to help ensure they are safe for use - any signs of damage can be easily logged and the tag updated to inform all employess 'DO NOT USE' until the problem has been resolved. Alternatively, if no issues are identified then the tag will clearly inform workers that the ladders are 'GOOD TO GO' as of that date. 

The use of a ladder tag such as this can go a long way top providing a quick, simple and affordable solution to your workplace safety. The same system can also be used on a wide range of other construction equipment, including scaffolding, forklifts, MEWPs, fall arrest harnesses and scaffold towers to name a few. For more information visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk - don't assume the ladder is safe, put the necessary checks in place and avoid becoming another statistic. On average falls from ladders account for 14 deaths each year and 1200 major injuries to workers in the UK.
13 Apr 2011

Companies fined £400,000 after labourer's fatal fall from scaffolding

Two companies have been fined a total of £400,000 for breaches of health and safety legislation that resulted in the death of a stonemason's labourer at a Glasgow construction site.

James Kelly, a labourer employed by Stirling Stone Ltd, was working on the third level of a loading tower of scaffolding that had been erected as part of construction work taking place at Glasgow Academy, Colebrook Street, Glasgow. Stirling Stone had been contracted as stonemasons on the site by Robertson Construction Central Ltd.

On 26 April 2007, Mr Kelly fell to the ground from the scaffold loading tower platform. He died later from his injuries. A single guard rail was found on the ground close to where Mr Kelly was discovered.

Following the incident, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that there was no safe system of work in place for loading materials onto the loading tower, nor had suitable assessment of the risks involved been made. The investigation also revealed that the loading tower did not have sufficient guard rails and toe boards and that neither company had ensured that the tower and access scaffolding was properly inspected on a regular basis.

Both companies were found guilty of health and safety breaches at an earlier trial. Today at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Robertson Construction Central Ltd of Perimeter Road, Elgin, Moray, was fined £200,000 for breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc 1974 Act. Stirling Stone Ltd was fined £200,000 for breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

John Shelton, HSE Inspector for Construction, said:

"What happened to Mr Kelly was entirely preventable and would not have happened if the proper steps had been taken.

"Loading up operations at scaffold loading towers are repeated on construction sites across Scotland probably thousands of times a day.

"There is no excuse for the contractors not to have agreed procedures as to how this work was to be done and ensured that this routine work was carried out safely.

"Where vital edge protection is removed temporarily to allow loading up to take place steps must be taken to ensure persons cannot fall during that work."

HSE Bulletin No: SCO/032/11 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

Yet another tragic case brought about due to a lack of ownership for site safety; as the inspector states in his summary, this type of work is carried out regularly across the UK and there is simply no excuse for not having a safe system of work (SSOW) in place. Combine this apathy towards safety with scaffolding and working at height and the potential for serious accidents (or in this case fatality) are substantial. The need for a competent person to understand the working of scaffolding and the need for guardrails is further highlighted in this case, as is the need to carry out routine inspections of the scaffolding once erected. 

By carrying out simple inspection procedures such as this it can help identify missing components and with the use of our Good to Go Safety system, allow the quick and easy quarantine of the scaffolding if probems are identified. To find out more about the Good to Go Safety scaffold inspection systems visit our website at www.goodtogosafety.co.uk
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