17 Aug 2010

Steeplejack firm fined after worker falls from scaffold tower

A Stoke-on-Trent steeplejack firm has been fined £8,000 after one of its workers fell from scaffolding causing him injuries that left him in plaster for four months.

Rafferty Chimneys Engineering Ltd of Nash Peake Street, was working at a site in Tunstall when Kevin Ford fell one-and-a-half metres to the ground causing a serious injury to his heel.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was also ordered to pay £5,000 costs.

Newcastle-under-Lyme magistrates heard how on 4 March 2009 the company had been contracted to inspect four 20-metre tall steel chimneys at Churchill China (UK) Ltd pottery firm. A tower scaffold was used to access the eves of the roof.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation revealed that the tower's guard rail was too low, it did not use the right boards and no toe boards were in place.

Two workers walked across a fragile asbestos sheet roof using boards just 45cm wide with no safety measures in place. They carried equipment back and forth throughout the day despite the potential for falling nearly four metres into the workshop below.

Mr Ford fell when he was dismantling the tower scaffold at the end of the job. He had lowered a board down from the upper level when he slipped and fell suffering a serious fracture to the heel of his left foot. He needed pins inserted into the bone and spent 16 weeks in plaster.

HSE inspector Guy Dale said:

"Working at height is the most common cause of workplace injuries and this incident shows the very real dangers, no matter what the distance to the ground.

"With the right equipment and a proper risk assessment this could have been prevented. As it was, there were so many instances and potential for falls throughout the day leading up to this event that it was lucky both men weren't involved in serious injuries."

Falling from height remains one of the most common causes of workplace injuries in the UK. Last year there were 1,396 major injuries to workers, as well as 3,044 workers having to take in excess of three days off work.

HSE Transcript Source: WM209/10
(Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

The use of our Good to Go Safety inspection system for scaffold towers would help identify any problems such as the lack of toe boards or missing guard rail. This case further empahsises the need for competent persons to perform a pre-use check of such equipment. There is no excuse for the continued lack of inspections, to find out more about our range of systems, including our scaffold tower checklist, click here.

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