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June 2, 2011

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Unsecured scaffold collapsed into residential garden

A Surrey-based scaffolding company has admitted failing to adequately secure a scaffold, which overturned in high winds at a residential property.

Johnson Scaffold Services Ltd had been contracted to erect sheeted scaffolding around a house in Copenhagen Way, Walton-on-Thames, to enable the principal contractor at the site to refurbish the property’s roof. The scaffold was designed to be secured to the building with anchor ties, but these were not used as Johnson Scaffold Services believed the brickwork was not strong enough to hold them. Instead, it decided to install rakers to stabilise the structure.

Once the roofwork was completed on 17 December 2009, the company returned to the site and dismantled most of the scaffolding apart from a section at the rear of the property, as it was approaching the end of the day. Workers left the sheeting at the back in place to prevent any tools and debris from blowing into the property’s garden, but they removed the rear scaffold’s temporary roof and the sheeting from the front and sides of the structure.

In the early hours of the next day the 200ft-long, 40ft-high section of scaffold, which had been left unsecured, overturned in the wind and collapsed into the garden. No body was injured and there was no damage to the property.

HSE inspector, Denis Bodger, revealed that the company should have got the scaffolding checked by an engineer to see if it was structurally safe once it had changed the design plans by not using anchor ties. It should also have ensured that the structure was secured during the dismantling process.

Describing it as a serious incident, which could have resulted in severe injury, or worse, the inspector explained: “Scaffolds should be designed by a competent person, or built to a recognised standard. At no stage during erection, use or removal should they be left in an unstable state where they could collapse. They should be adequately tied, or other effective means taken.

”This should serve as a warning to other companies that HSE will not hesitate to take action against anyone that fails to build safe scaffolding.”

Johnson Scaffold Services appeared at Staines Magistrates’ Court on 1 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £7500 in total and ordered to pay £7000 towards costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it believed at the time that the design was safe and that there was no need for it to be checked by an engineer, but it now accepts this was a mistake. The company added that it had no previous convictions and expressed its regret that the incident had taken place.


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