A catalogue of failings on the part of a demolition firm and scaffold sub-contractor was to blame for a scaffold collapse that, but for good fortune, could have had more serious consequences.
Some 70 metres of sheeted scaffold peeled away from a row of houses in Wellington Road, Hanley, on 30 April last year. Fortunately, workers were on a break, so no one was on, or near the scaffolding at the time of the collapse. Neither were any members of the public in the vicinity, although a row of parked cars received minor damage and a street lamp was destroyed.
Potteries Demolition Company Limited was the principal contractor on the Stoke City Council scheme to demolish 15 terraced houses and a former pub. Jacko’s Scaffolding Limited was appointed to provide scaffolding.
Following the incident, the HSE investigated and found the scaffold had not been built to an appropriate bespoke design and was not sufficiently fixed to the houses. It was also a particularly windy day, which put extra pressure on the sheeted scaffold.
Stafford magistrates were told that the original scaffold provided by Jacko’s was a basic structure intended for roof-tile removal and, as such, it did not require a bespoke design. However, the next stage in the demolition sequence required the scaffold to be altered and sheeting added, as it was to be used as a work platform to enable demolition of the front upper walls of the buildings. This job required the scaffold to be of a bespoke design, as it could become vulnerable to collapse as the buildings it was tied to were demolished.
Describing it as “sheer good luck” that no one was hurt, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said: “This incident was caused by a catalogue of serious failings by both companies. The failure to construct the scaffold to a suitable design for the work meant that the scaffold, ultimately, could not withstand the effects of wind loading as the building’s upper walls were demolished and first-floor anchor ties were removed.”
He explained that both companies failed between them to manage the demolition sequence involving the scaffold, owing, in large part, to poor communication.
Commenting in relation to Potteries Demolition, Inspector Bowker said: “They failed to ensure that the sheeted scaffold was constructed to a suitable bespoke design despite knowing that this was necessary. They failed to inspect the scaffold and removed anchor ties during the demolition sequence, ignoring written instructions on the scaffold-handover certificate not to do so.”
Jacko’s Scaffolding did not construct the scaffold to a suitable design and failed to inform Potteries Demolition that the sheeted scaffold was not adequately tied for the façade demolition to start. Both companies failed to ensure that the anchor ties that were fitted were suitably tested.
Jacko’s Scaffolding, of Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay costs of £2992 at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on 18 July. Potteries Demolition Company, also of Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the same Act. It was fined a total of £13,320 with costs of £11,967.
Neither company has a previous enforcement history for health and safety. Potteries Demolition Company also confirmed that it has taken steps to ensure that it will not carry out future demolition work without being in possession of the relevant scaffold design and without having carried out the necessary checks.
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