A recent case highlights the importance for those working in the building industry of ensuring that they carry out work in accordance with the applicable health and safety requirements.
In May last year, qualified scaffolders working for Sky Scaffolding (Midlands) Ltd. were erecting scaffolding on the pavement in Coventry city centre. The scaffolders began work early in an attempt to avoid working when the streets would be busy, but they were still working at 9.20am, a very busy period. A steel pole fell from a height of five metres onto a member of the public, gashing her leg. The woman was immobilised for several weeks and still suffers from anxiety attacks as a result of the accident.
At the time of the accident, the scaffolders were securing the site on account of the streets being busy but, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) press release, they had ‘failed to take more-robust [sic] steps to ensure that the system of work was effective to protect the public from simple human error such as dropped materials or tools during scaffolding erection’.
Use of the pavement had not been restricted, nor was it closed to pedestrians although, to prevent such accidents occurring, a workman had been given the task of asking pedestrians to wait when he was passing materials and poles up to his colleagues or while materials were being handled overhead. However, this job was too great a task for one individual as pedestrians were coming along the pavement in both directions. The workman failed to see the woman approaching and so did not ask her to wait.
The company was charged with not taking sufficient and suitable steps to prevent injury to passers by and with not conducting a sufficient and suitable risk assessment. It pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court to breaching Regulation 3(b) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Regulation 10(2) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was ordered to pay a fine of £4,000 and costs of £1,761. As of 16 January 2009, the maximum penalty the Magistrates’ Court can award for a single breach of either regulation is a fine of up to £20,000 or up to a year’s imprisonment.
The HSE has stressed the importance of scaffolders segregating themselves from the public whilst conducting dangerous overhead activities.
The Work at Height Regulations can be found at