12 Apr 2012

Seven survive scaffold collapse at John Moores University

Seven construction workers were lucky to survive when more than 250 tonnes of wet concrete collapsed at Liverpool John Moores University, a court has been told.
The construction site for a new Art and Design Academy at Liverpool John Moores University following a scaffolding collapse.

Two companies have been fined a total of £100,000 over the incident, which occurred during the construction of an atrium for a new Art and Design Academy at the university.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that workers had been pumping concrete onto the third floor of the building for most of the day on 19 September 2007 when the supporting scaffolding holding up the concrete suddenly collapsed. The workers' injuries included cement burns to their skin and eyes, and bone fractures.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found both the principal contractor for the project, Wates Construction Ltd, and the concrete subcontractor, MPB Structures Ltd, allowed the supporting scaffolding to be erected from a preliminary design, clearly marked 'for discussion and pricing purposes only'.

The drawing did not include all the information needed to erect the scaffolding correctly or safely. The companies also failed to ensure the scaffolding was checked before allowing the concrete to be poured.

Both companies admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by putting workers at risk. Wates Construction Ltd, of Station Approach in Leatherhead, Surrey, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £35,591 in prosecution costs on 10 April 2012.

MPB Structures Ltd, of Crucible Road in Corby, Northamptonshire, was also fined £50,000 with costs of £35,362.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Susan Ritchie said:

"This incident resulted in seven men falling roughly ten metres onto wet concrete which contained various bits of metal and wood.

"The companies should have made sure they had an appropriate design they could use to build from, and that the structure was inspected before the concrete was poured.

"Instead, more than 250 tonnes of concrete was poured onto scaffolding incapable of taking such loads and the inevitable happened - it collapsed. These basic errors could easily have resulted in several people losing their lives.

"This incident should act as a stark reminder that if you fail to plan and manage projects properly then there is a real potential for things to go seriously wrong."

Last year, there were 50 workplace deaths and nearly 3,000 major injuries reported in the construction industry in Great Britain. Information on improving safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/construction.

HSE Bulletin No: 11_April_2012 (Reproduced under the terms of the Click-Use Licence)

It's scary to think that scaffolding can go unchecked before use on a job as large as this. We hear of scaffold collapses from cowboy outfits cutting corners to keep costs down but we don't expect similar failings to be made on the larger builds. It sounds as if there were a catalogue of errors made during this particular incident and it is sheer good fortune that we aren't reading about fatalities.

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of having a competent person to check the scaffolding before it is used in earnest. For details on how Good to Go Safety can help with your scaffold tagging and scaffold inspections please visit our digital catalogue by clicking on the image below.


  1. I see this is described as scaffold collapse. Here in British Columbia we would identify this type of accident as a false work/ form work collapse. The regulation around this type of work has changed significantly on this type of work. If you are interested in a look at the regulation you can find them at www.worksafebc.com It is amazing no one was killed. What had happen in some of the collapse cases here were the workers under the form work who were checking the form work as the pour progressed. Not a good place to be.

  2. That's the most important thing we have to worry about, safety of our workers, the most it didn't matter


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