Two firms fined after bricklayers injured in scaffold collapse

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A major house builder and its scaffolding contractor have been forced to pay out a total of nearly £28,000 after two workers were injured when a scaffold collapsed.

The two bricklayers, who have asked not to be named, fell two metres to the platform below as they worked on a housing development in Lincoln. One man, 62, suffered a broken foot and was out of work for nine weeks. His 29-year-old colleague sustained a bruised his neck and twisted knee.

The Cathedral Scaffold Company, contracted by the men’s employer Persimmon Homes, had constructed the scaffold to bridge a narrow gap between the gable ends of two neighbouring properties, but failed to calculate the correct load bearing of its non-standard design.

Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard on 28 July that the scaffolding company wrongly believed it could not fit a four-board-wide walking platform and standards – the uprights that transfer the structure’s load to the ground – into the space. As such they built the structure without the uprights.

On completion, the Cathedral Scaffold Company issued a ‘handing over’ certificate to Persimmon, setting out restrictions on the use of the scaffold. This identified it as a general purpose scaffold capable of supporting a specified distributed weight load, but because no strength or stability calculations were undertaken by either defendant this distributed load could not be guaranteed.

On 4 April 2012 the two men were just about to start work on the scaffold platform, which was six metres from the ground and had been loaded with materials, when the scaffold collapsed and they fell to the platform below.

“Unless a scaffold is a basic configuration described in recognised guidance it should be designed by calculation, by a competent person, to ensure it will have adequate strength and suitability,” said HSE inspector Linda-Jane Rigby after the hearing.

“The design information should describe the sequence and methods to be adopted when erecting, dismantling and altering the scaffold. That did not happen in this case. Persimmon accepted handover of the scaffold and subsequently overloaded it, causing it to collapse.”

HSE inspectors found the weight of just one pack of dry blocks distributed evenly over the platform would have taken it over the load limit – even without the men, tools or mortar on the platform.

It was likely that the actual loading could have increased the danger as the blocks were all stacked towards one side of the platform.

York-based Persimmon Homes Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 8(b)(i) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £10,426 costs. The Cathedral Scaffold Company Ltd, of Lincoln, pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 8(b)(ii) of the same regulations and was fined £4,000 with costs of £5,500.



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