PUBLIC BLOW WHISTLE ON UNSAFE SCAFFOLDING OPS

Use of untrained staff put workers and public at risk

JOS Scaffolding Limited has been prosecuted after a member of the public photographed unsafe scaffolding operations on a busy London street in June 2013.

Westminster Magistrates heard the firm was contracted to erect a five-storey scaffold at to a height of some 10m above street level.

The images taken showed workers using insecure and precariously balanced boards to access and pass materials to higher levels. A workman was also captured sitting near the top of the structure “casually dangling his legs over the side”.

Magistrates were told there was nothing in place at this point of the work to prevent or mitigate a fall of persons or equipment or materials. This put anyone below at risk of being struck by falling objects.

HSE established the work was poorly planned and managed, and that two of the three-man team erecting the scaffold were lacking training and accreditation to prove their competence.

The work fell well below the legally required standard – although both HSE and the court acknowledged that efforts had been made to improve standards once the failings were brought to the company’s attention.

Right to safe use of pavement

JOS Scaffolding Limited, of Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1, was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay £734 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented:

“Scaffolding work is fraught with risk and can be extremely dangerous if it isn’t carried out properly. The standards here were sorely lacking and the photographic evidence speaks for itself in terms of the risks taken.

None of the missing measures, such as guard rails and secured boards and ladders, were difficult to provide, and there was no excuse.

It isn’t just the workers themselves who could end up getting seriously hurt or killed. People should be able to walk along a pavement without having to worry about a piece of scaffold slipping from the hands of an overhead worker.

Thankfully nobody was injured, but that doesn’t detract from JOS Scaffolding failing to ensure the work at height was properly planned, managed and executed in a safe manner. I would like to thank the concerned member of the public who brought the matter to our attention and who provided such clear visual evidence.”

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