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September 14, 2009

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Apprentice falls through unprotected floor

An unsupervised apprentice fell through an inadequately protected floor opening at a construction site in Glasgow.

Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that City Building (Glasgow) LLP was contracted to build a new primary school in the Arden area of the city. The firm was in the process of laying an upper floor in the building, when the incident took place on 28 June 2007.

During the construction of the floor a number of large openings had been created for lightwells to be installed. The openings were covered by a number of unsecured plywood sheets, and a joinery apprentice was instructed to secure the sheets with timber joists.

As he approached one of the openings, he tripped over rebar steel mesh and stumbled on to the boarding, which gave way, causing him to fall about four metres to the ground. A witness rushed to his aid and he was taken to hospital, where he underwent surgery to repair a fractured vertebrae in his neck. Owing to the severity of his injuries he was unable to return to work for more than four months.

HSE inspector, Annette Leppla, told SHP: “For a period of several days, floor openings had been left just covered with loose sheets of plywood which were totally unsuitable for that purpose. It was down to chance alone that this incident did not result in a permanent injury, or even a fatality.”

City Building appeared in court on 10 September and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £20,000. No costs are awarded in Scotland.  

In mitigation, the firm said it had no previous convictions and it has taken a number of steps to prevent similar incidents. These include installing edge protection around the voids, and using tower scaffolding to install and secure the protective boarding. The company has also strengthened the supervision of its apprentices.

City Building managing director, Willie Docherty, said:  “Steven has made a full and swift recovery and we are delighted that he has successfully completed his apprenticeship with us. He is now a full time employee at City Building and we will continue to support and develop his career.”

“Up until this incident, City Building was extremely proud of its unblemished safety record. A full investigation was carried out and staff re-briefed on guidelines to ensure an incident like this does not occur again.

Inspector Leppla concluded: “This accident was entirely foreseeable and could have been prevented by the installation of edge protection, or by installing the boarding with the use of a scissor lift or tower scaffolding. The worker was severely injured because his employer failed to do enough about the risks associated with working at height.”

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