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April 11, 2010

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TV documentary helps convict firm for fatality

Footage filmed for a BBC television documentary has been used as evidence to help convict a company after a  worker died falling from a scaffold.

Croydon Crown Court heard that Regentford Ltd had been contracted to build and refurbish a number of existing flats in South Norwood, Croydon. Balwinger Kumar was working as a mason and plasterer at the site, when the incident took place on 24 February 2005.

Mr Kumar was re-pointing brickwork when he fell 12 feet from scaffolding at the rear of one of the buildings, and there were no witnesses who saw him fall. He suffered severe head injuries and was taken to King’s College Hospital, where he died five days later.

The HSE was notified about the accident on 3 March 2005 and visited the site on the same day. When an inspector arrived he found that the scaffolding that Mr Kumar had been standing on had been taken down. The Police informed the inspector that a BBC television crew filming the documentary ‘Trauma’ accompanied the medical staff who attended the site to treat Mr Kumar. The HSE was able to obtain a copy of the footage, which showed that the scaffolding was in a very poor condition, with insufficient guardrails and an inadequate working platform.

Regentford Ltd was found guilty of breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974 following an eight-day trial. The firm was sentenced on 6 April, and was fined £250,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £71,603. The company had no previous safety convictions.

HSE inspector Nigel Evans said: “The footage from the documentary crew showed that the scaffolding was totally inadequate for the job in hand. We will use all evidence at our disposal to prosecute employers who fail to manage health and safety risks properly. Mr Kumar needlessly lost his life on a small construction site, and it is these smaller sites where a significant proportion of fatalities in the industry occur each year.

“The message is simple, whatever the size of company or site, you have exactly the same responsibility to make sure employees have a safe and healthy working environment, and we can and will prosecute if these duties are neglected.”

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