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November 6, 2008

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Scaffolding barrier not sufficient to prevent worker’s fall

A construction worker was paralysed from the waist down after he fell two storeys through a hole that had been created to accommodate a large steel structure.

City of London Magistrates’ Court heard on 14 October that two buildings were being converted into one to make a large office space at a site in Grosvenor Street, London. To support the building, the steel structure was being lifted into place by a hoist from the ground floor.

Because of its size, a very large hole was needed so that it could be moved through it. Scaffolding had been placed around the hole, but set back some distance from it, so that the workers had to step inside the rails in order to carry out their work.

The court heard that the beam had been laid on the floor while its pathway was cleared of obstructions, but when it was picked up again, it became snagged. Two men were struck when trying to free the structure and one was dragged through the hole and through a hole below to the ground floor, falling 7.3 metres. As a result, he is now paralysed from the waist down. The other man was also injured in the incident.

The men’s employer, TJ Myles of Hillingdon, pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of HSWA 1974 by not ensuring its employees’ safety. It was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £7339.

Principal contractor Crispin and Borst, of Watford, also pleaded guilty to a breach of s3(1) of HSWA by failing to ensure the safety of non-employees. It was fined £10,000 with full costs of £7155.

The two companies offered similar mitigation that they had previous good safety records and had sought to remedy their safety deficiencies immediately.

Investigating HSE inspector Lisa Chappells said: “The victim suffered serious injuries, which have left him paralysed, but this incident could well have resulted in his death.

“This case again highlights the absolute necessity for the creation and implementation of a site-specific assessment of work at height that is fit for purpose in order to identify appropriate measures to prevent injury.”

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