Construction firm ignored workers’ concerns about unsafe scaffold15 June 2012
A construction company has been prosecuted after a worker fell from an unsecured scaffold tower, which he had requested not to build for safety reasons.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that Green Acre Homes (South East) Ltd was appointed as principal contractor by Wandle Housing Association to build 85 flats at a site in Peckham, London.
Handyman John Morgan, 44, and a colleague were asked to build a tower scaffold, around one of the properties, despite there not being enough space to fix the structure on a flat base. The men told the company that a tower scaffold was unsuitable and requested permission not to construct it, but these concerns were ignored and they were ordered to build the scaffold. The men began to build the scaffold but raised their concerns again when a representative from Wandle Housing Association visited the site. He deemed the scaffold was unsafe and ordered the firm to dismantle it immediately.
Two days later, on 25 November 2009, Green Acre Homes instructed Mr Morgan to construct a scaffold around another property at the site. There were gas boxes located on the ground, which prevented the scaffold being installed flush against the building.
Mr Morgan and his colleague informed the company that it was not safe to erect a tower scaffold in this location and that it would not be safely secured to the building. Their concerns were once again ignored and they were told to build the scaffold regardless.
As the scaffold was nearing completion, Mr Morgan was at the top of the tower when a gust of wind caused it to overturn. He fell eight metres to the ground and suffered fractures to his ribs and breastbone, a compressed vertebrae, and a head wound. He was unable to return to work for three months owing to his injuries and suffers persistent ringing in his ears and has permanent scarring.
HSE inspector Ian Seabrook told SHP that Green Acre Homes declined to attend a PACE interview and went into liquidation in August last year. He explained that the incident could have been avoided if the company had installed a tube and fitting scaffold.
“Mr Morgan was lucky to have survived this fall,” said inspector Seabrook. “He and his colleague had tried several times to convince managers that a tower scaffold could not be safety erected where they had been told to put it. In addition, neither of them was trained to construct scaffold towers.
Green Acre Homes (South East) Ltd was found guilty in its absence of breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, during a hearing on 13 June. It was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £6969 in costs.
The court was told the company completed the work by installing a tube and fitting scaffold, and that it had no previous safety convictions.
Summing up the lessons from the case, inspector Seabrook added: “Mr Morgan is paying a high price for the significant safety failings of Green Acre Homes. The case highlights how important it is that tower scaffolds are erected by trained and competent workers. It also illustrates the need for site managers to listen to the concerns of their workforce and act on them.”
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