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March 13, 2009

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Liquidated firm fined after worker fall

A dissolved construction company has been fined £3000 after a worker fell three metres through a void on the first floor of a sports pavilion.

Bradford Magistrates’ Court heard that Allerton Dale & Co Ltd had sub-contracted electrician, Simon Hunter, to carry out work during the construction of a new sports pavilion at Bradford Grammar School.

Mr Hunter was attempting to install a fire alarm on the first floor of the building, when the accident took place on 9 October 2007. He was working next to a void in the floor, where work was in progress to install a glass balcony, so that visitors could look down to the ground floor.

Scaffolding guardrails surrounded the hole, but only one end of the rails had been secured the other end was resting against a wall. As Mr Hunter was installing a cable on to the wall, he leant against the guardrail, which gave way, and he fell through the void landing on the ground floor. He was rushed to hospital and treated for an open fracture to his collarbone, a fractured left wrist, whiplash to his head and neck, and part of an ear, which had been detached. He was able to return to work on light duties after five months but was soon written off, as his injuries had not fully healed. He has been unable to return to work since and is awaiting additional surgery.

An HSE inspector visited the site on the day of the incident and issued a Prohibition Notice after noticing that the scaffolding was in poor condition. The inspector noted that the scaffolding was missing guardrails and had open edges, while there were also gaps between the work platform and the building.

Allerton Dale & Co has gone into liquidation since the accident. The HSE inspector, David Stewart, told SHP: “The company is in liquidation, but it was a serious incident. It was deemed in the public interest to prosecute the company, even though it will no longer be trading, to send a message to other principal contractors.”

The firm pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 23(2) of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2007 and reg.12(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was handed a £1500 fine for each offence but no costs were awarded owing to the firm being in liquidation.

In mitigation, the company said it had no previous convictions and had fully complied with the terms of the Prohibition Notice before completing the work. The firm claimed that it had employed three different site supervisors since the work had begun. But the supervisor at the time of the accident was not trained and had assumed that the scaffold suppliers were responsible for carrying out safety checks on the scaffolding. The company claimed that this was a genuine mistake on the part of the supervisor and, as a result of the accident, it provided training to its employees.

Steward added: “This was a serious and avoidable incident, which could have resulted in a fatality. As a result of poor communication within the company, essential safety inspections of scaffolding were not being undertaken on site in the weeks leading up to the accident. This oversight resulted in unsafe edge protection at first-floor level going unnoticed, and ultimately led to Mr Hunter’s accident.

“The principal contractor must ensure that scaffold inspections are undertaken and recorded by a competent person, on at least a weekly basis, and following any alterations to the scaffold.”

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