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May 10, 2011

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Scaffold company faked method statement following fatality

A judge has described a scaffolding firm as “cold-hearted” after it faked a method statement the day after a worker fell to his death.

Bristol Crown Court heard that Shaun Stevens, 41, fell four metres while dismantling a temporary storage structure at Flooks Scaffolding’s yard in Kingswood, Bristol, on 4 October 2006.

Mr Stevens was standing on the structure’s corrugated sheet roof when he fell to the ground and suffered serious head injuries. He died in hospital 12 days later owing to his injuries.

HSE inspector, Sue Adsett, and a police officer visited the site following Mr Stevens’ death and asked to see the method statement for the work. When the police officer checked the computer that the document was written on, he found that it had been created the day after the incident.

The firm was issued a Prohibition Notice on 6 November 2006, which required it to stop dismantling temporary roofs unless the work is supervised by an advanced scaffolder.

Inspector Adsett told SHP that the incident could have been avoided if a working platform had been created underneath the roof of the structure, so workers could remove the roof sheets. She also explained that the case took a number of years to come to court due to delays in getting the inquest into Mr Stevens’ death heard.

She said: “Corrugated tin temporary roofs are inherently dangerous to erect and dismantle. Employers need to reconsider how they do this work and not just repeat how they have done it in the past. There are now safer ways of working to be considered, using different materials and technologies.

“All employers have a duty to protect their employees and contractors. It is up to the scaffolding employer to make sure there is a safe system of work for erecting and dismantling temporary roofs and not leave the arrangements to workers.”

Russell Lee Flock, trading as Flooks Scaffolding appeared in court on 27 April and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s33(1)(k) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined a total of £3000 and ordered to pay £1000 towards costs.

In mitigation, he said that his decision to fake the method statement was rash and was done in panic. He accepted that this was wrong and apologised for his actions.

In delivering his sentence the judge commented: “It was  terribly cold-hearted to create false documents immediately after such a serious accident.”

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11 years ago

What a sad example of why health and safety in our country is treated with such contempt. What sentence would Flock have got if he’d killed someone by driving dangerously and then faking evidence. This paltry fine sends out entirely the wrong message and acts as no deterrent at all.

11 years ago

S33, (intent to deceive is obstruction by definition) its a serious breach, yet it incurred £1000, because he claimed he panicked, good ploy that. We should all remember that defence.

Given that each breach can impose 20k Flooks had a fluke with this Judge, lucky by name lucky by nature I suppose?

He`s a lucky Flooker.

11 years ago

There is something very wrong here. Section 33(1)(k) is about making false, i.e. known to be untrue, statements to an Inspector, not about falsifying documents. The falsification of the Method Statement the day after the incident was a direct attempt to pervert the course of justice and should have been prosecuted as such. This goes way beyond a H&S matter and goes to the very core of the justice system. The police or CPS are to blame here not the HSE or the court.

11 years ago

£4,000 for a preventable fatality is an insult given the level of non-compliance and deceit. If the company had little means to pay a substantial fine then a custodial sentence would have been more appropriate and the MD barred from holding a directorship.