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Halesowen firm in the dock following apprentice’s fall

Halesowen firm in the dock following apprentice’s fall

30 March 2013 Email this article

A scaffolding company in Halesowen has been fined after an inexperienced 18-year-old apprentice broke his back when he fell more than three metres.

The trainee was working for Harris Scaffolding Limited on a construction site in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire when he fell in November 2011. 

The teenage worker, who had been a scaffolding apprentice for just five weeks, was carrying out alterations to a scaffold the firm had put up five weeks earlier when he fell nearly three-and-a half metres to the ground below. He fractured two vertebrae and was off work and in a back brace for three months.

The HSE’s investigation found that the apprentice had been allowed to work unsupervised in areas of scaffold with no boards or guardrails and without a harness. At times he stood on single-width scaffold boards or directly on tubing and gained access to work areas from an unsuitable ladder and by climbing up the outside of the scaffold.

A more experienced colleague had been sent to work with the apprentice, but he had not carried out any scaffold construction work for some 15 years nor had any refresher training in that time.

HSE said the work had not been adequately planned, supervised or carried out in a safe manner.

Harris Scaffolding Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,156.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Luke Messenger said:"This was an avoidable incident and a young man was fortunate not to suffer more serious life-changing or even fatal injuries.

"Work at height is the biggest single cause of fatal and serious injury in the construction industry, and for scaffolding companies working at height on a daily basis the controls required should be second nature. There is a wealth of guidance available, from HSE and the industry, and there is really no excuse for not following basic precautions such as working from a safe area or using a harness.

"In this case the company fell well below accepted standards and a trainee scaffolder was badly injured as a result. It was lucky his career wasn't ended before it had properly begun.

"This case should serve as a reminder to all those involved in work at height of the need to ensure that their work is properly planned and carried out safely. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff have the right equipment, that safe operating procedures are in place and that persons carrying out work at height have the right training and supervision."