Scaffolder in court for dangerous work
An Essex scaffolder has been prosecuted following unsafe work at a Chelsea property. Christopher Harker, from Epping, trading as C&H Scaffolding, clambered up and down the outside of a four-storey scaffold in Cheyne Walk on in March 2014, completely unconcerned by the fact a fall could have proved fatal.
He and his assistant also casually leaned through openings up to 10 metres above the ground and nonchalantly passed materials to each other that could have slipped and caused serious harm to anyone walking below.
The unsafe work continued in full view of an inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), despite Mr Harker knowing he was present and after the inspector had tried to warn him of the danger.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told that there was a complete absence of any form of edge protection on the scaffold to prevent or mitigate falls. Equally, neither worker was wearing a safety harness, there were no access ladders to some of the work areas, and there were large gaps between the boards that also posed a significant fall risk.
Mr Harker used a system where he moved boards from the upper and lower levels of the scaffolding depending on where he or the labourer were working, rather than ensuring that both areas were sufficiently boarded to begin with.
He also casually tossed objects and materials, such as scaffolding clips, to his colleague on the level below him. This not only put the assistant at risk as he moved to catch them, but also members of the public exiting a doorway directly under the scaffold, who could have been struck and injured.
The court was told that the police were required to attend the site such was Mr Harker’s hostile attitude towards the HSE inspector. It was only then that he accepted the risks he had created as the legal dutyholder responsible for the work.
He subsequently apologised unreservedly for his behaviour, complied with all aspects of the HSE investigation and vowed to undertake future scaffolding projects in a safe and legal manner. He was fined a total of £800 and ordered to pay £577 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The relatively low penalty reflected the defendant’s limited financial means, early guilty plea and full co-operation throughout.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented: “The scaffolding work at Cheyne Walk posed a clear danger to the two workers as well as members of the public exiting the building under the scaffolding.
“The failings were abundantly obvious and trained scaffolder Mr Harker knew this, which is probably why he reacted in the manner he did. He was caught red-handed, panicked and tried to make the problem go away as he saw it.
“However, HSE inspectors cannot and will not turn a blind eye when safety is compromised in this manner – as the scaffolder now fully accepts. He understands that safety rules and standards are designed to protect life and limb, and that cutting corners in order to get a job done is simply not acceptable.”