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September 18, 2020

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Scaffolding company and director fined following ‘avoidable’ fall from height fatality

Wembley Scaffolding Services Limited has been fined following an incident where a worker fell five metres and suffered a fatal head injury. HSE adjudged that no suitable risk assessment was carried out prior to the incident.

On 16 February 2017, two operatives were dismantling a scaffold on Cricklewood Broadway, London, during this process the scaffold collapsed resulting in one of the operatives falling at least five metres onto a concrete pavement, causing serious head injuries. He later died from these injuries on 4 March 2017.

Investigating, the HSE found that Wembley Scaffolding Services Limited’s director, Sean Chapple, failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment, plan the work and provide a design for erection and dismantling of the scaffold. Sean Chapple himself was not knowledgeable about the measures required to do this without putting people at risk and therefore didn’t follow the correct measures to ensure safe erection and dismantling of the scaffold.

Wembley Scaffolding Services Limited, Hillier Hopkins Llp, Radius House, Clarendon Road, Watford, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 3(3)(b) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and 8(b)ii; Section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £7,860 and ordered to pay costs of £8,940.

Director, Sean Chapple of York Road, Northwood pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(2)(ii) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005; sections 33(1)(a) and 37(1) of the Act; Section 33(2) and Schedule 3A to the Act (as amended by section 1 of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008. He was fined £1,000, received a 12-week prison sentence suspended for one year and was ordered to pay costs of £11,000.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Saif Deen said: “This tragic incident led to the avoidable death of a young man. The case highlights the importance of following industry guidance in order to design and erect scaffolding in a safe manner, to prevent risk to workers using the scaffold. The death could have been prevented had the employer acted to identify and manage the risks involved, and to put a safe system of work in place.”

Barbour download: Guide to working at height

Work at any height can cause injury; a fall from a height of just one or two steps can cause serious injury.

The Regulations were amended in 2007 to extend their application to those who work at height providing instruction or leadership to one or more people engaged in caving or climbing by way of sport, recreation, team building or similar activities in Great Britain.

Download your free guide from Barbour to understand: Duties of persons in control of work at height; Duties of persons undertaking work at height; General controls when working at height; Method statement for work at height; Selection of a means of access; Working platforms; Guardrails and toeboards; Ladders Mobile work platforms; Suspended access equipment; Personal suspension equipment and, Inspection of fall arrest equipment.

Barbour EHS

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Glenn Manners
Glenn Manners
1 month ago

I initially thought I would add this to the cases I use to support training for Directors. A £1,000 fine and suspended sentence, even with costs, is not really a deterrent in my view. It seems to support the not uncommonly held view that ‘if something goes wrong, we’ll stand the cost, it won’t be that much’. I am not sure if or how the 2016 sentencing guidelines have been applied here at first glance.