29 May 2012

Death on Dangerous Scaffolding Leads to Fines

A firm, its director and a supervisor have been sentenced for safety failings after a worker died from injuries sustained in a fall from scaffolding at a construction site in East Sussex.

Scaffold over-roof at Washington Avenue, St Leonards on Sea

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Apex Scaffolding (Sussex) Ltd, its director, Michael Walsh, and Leslie Hustwayte, a supervisor, for negligence and defects that contributed towards the incident on 10 August 2009.

Hastings Magistrates’ Court heard on Friday (25 May) that Joseph Murphy, 31, from had been constructing a scaffold over-roof at Washington Avenue in St Leonards on Sea, when he fell.

Precisely how far or why he fell remains unclear, but a HSE investigation identified a number of defects with the scaffolding at the site, including missing hand rails and incomplete scaffold platforms. Evidence of deficient working practices by Mr Hustwayte and a negligent safety culture within the company were also found.

Magistrates were told that Prohibition Notices had previously been served on Apex Scaffolding (Sussex) Ltd and on individual employees for unsafe working practices, but the poor attitude to safety in the organisation continued.
Incomplete scaffold platform
After the hearing, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said:

"HSE and the scaffolding industry have worked together to produce easy to follow guidance to help contractors ensure their scaffolding is safe. So there is no excuse for compromising safety – as was clearly the case here.

"HSE takes firm action against individuals and contractors who ignore their health and safety obligations. It is essential that contractors and contract managers equip themselves with the necessary information and guidance material and apply it every time a scaffold is built."

Apex Scaffolding (Sussex) Ltd, of Court House, Hooe, Battle; Michael Walsh, of King Edward Avenue, Hastings; and Leslie Hustwayte, of Asten Close, St Leonards on Sea, all pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) and Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 in relation to the safety failings.

Mr Hustwayte also pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 14(2) of the same legislation.

The company was fined a total of £3,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs for its failings, Michael Walsh was fined £1,500 with £2,500 in costs and Leslie Hustwayte was fined £2,000 with costs of £2,500.

Further information on safe working practices and procedures in construction can be found online at www.hse.gov.uk/construction. The section includes a comprehensive scaffolding checklist - see http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/safetytopics/scaffoldinginfo.htm for details

HSE Bulletin No: SE/101/12 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

Another unnecessary death on a construction site, due to inadequate safety checks. The fines seem lenient for such a costly loss of life, especially when considering that prohibition notices had been issued to the company previously. 

As ever, we applaud the HSE and their attempts to police an industry that seems to be cutting corners with health and safety in order to save money in a tough economic environment. The cost to train a few guys and provide them with tagging and checklists is however miniscule in comparison to the loss of a life and the subsequent fines. It staggers me that companies continue to ignore basic safety standards, such as completing a pre-use check of the scaffolding. Even more amazing is that people simply don't seem to care, continuing to bury their head in the sand when it comes to 'red tape' H&S.

You can find details of our scaffold tagging and inspection systems at www.goodtogosafety.co.uk Please take the necessary precautions and invest in a tagging and inspection system today. You could be saving someone's life by doing so.


  1. its the company fault, its there problem , they have to make sure that there all worker are safely working and if something bad happen then its their duty to provide basic feature to him.

  2. Yes the company is ultimately at fault but not just for lack of supervision and ignoring OHS laws but what about the lack of training for the scaffolders? How long had this person who unfortunatelt died been erecting scaffolds? Was he properly trained or was he just thrown into the job?

  3. Really useful all information you are sharing to keep improving daily in our services, thanks for the help


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