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Not listening to employees work at height safety concerns

Not listening to employees work at height safety concerns

25 June 2012 Email this article

A Croydon construction company, Green Acre Homes (South East) Ltd, failed to listen to the concerns raised by its employee John Morgan and has since ceased closed down and been prosecuted. The worker had been instructed to build a tower scaffold on a building site in Peckham and feel eight metres from the tower that he had been reluctant to build for safety issues.

On November 25th 2009, he had been in the process of completing the top of the tower, when it was sent crashing to the ground by a strong gust of wind. This resulted in him falling eight metres down, fracturing his ribs and breastbone, compressing his vertebrae and wounding his head.

The HSE investigation proved that Mr Morgan and a colleague had been instructed against their better judgement, to erect the scaffold tower in an area with no stable base and were made to continue, despite complaining to the site management.  Having done as best they could with the tower, a representative of a client company, Wandle Housing Association, on seeing the tower - ordered that it be taken down, saying that it was not safe to use.

On the second attempt at constructing the tower in another location, the two workers again raised their safety concerns with management, which were also ignored. It was during this second attempt to build the tower that Morgan was sent falling to the ground, when the high winds made the tower topple over.

This accident has meant that Mr Morgan was out of work for three months and he currently suffers persistent ringing in his ears, as well as permanent scarring.

HSE has carried through this case on his behalf, despite the firm going into liquidation in August 2011. This prosecution sends a vital message to all industries regarding safety at height.

Green Acre Homes (South East) Ltd did not appear in court and were found guilty in their absence. Magistrates found the firm guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined a £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,969.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Ian Seabrook said:

"Mr Morgan was lucky to have survived this fall. He and his colleague had tried several times to convince managers that a tower scaffold could not be safety erected where they had been told to put it. In addition neither of them was trained to construct scaffold towers.

"Even after the firm’s client company had ordered the first one to be dismantled, they ignored the very valid concerns repeated by the two handymen, even when their fears were echoed by other workers on site.

"Mr Morgan is paying a high price for the significant safety failings of Green Acre Homes. The case highlights how important it is that tower scaffolds are erected by trained and competent workers. It also illustrates the need for site managers to listen to the concerns of their workforce and act on them."

HSE’s latest figures show that 50 people lost their lives and almost 3,000 people suffered a major injury while working in the construction industry in Great Britain in 2010/11. Thirty eight people died as a result of a workplace fall and more than 4,000 suffered a major injury. Information on preventing falls is available at www.hse.gov.uk/falls.