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When Minor Scaffolding Accidents Are In Major Pole Position!

17th December 2013
A collapsing scaffold can often produce a dramatic press picture, and as a result, is one of the most well-known types of accident associated with the construction industry. In Britain, around fifty people lose their lives and a further 4,500 suffer major injury each year as a result of an accident involving a defective scaffolding installation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) point to the “lack of planning” or an “incorrect installation” as a cause of most scaffolding accidents and claims for injury compensation, with an estimated annual loss of 90 million working days.

While a large scale collapse might be infrequent and workmen falling from height more regularly reported, it is the everyday minor scaffold incidents, which are not necessarily featured in the press that can still claim casualties.

As with 'slips, trips and falls' on uneven or broken pavement, scaffolding erected in a public thoroughfare can be an accident – and an accident claim - waiting to happen unless a thorough risk assessment is made and potential hazards identified and removed in advance.

A recent example of a less dramatic occurrence with scaffolding recently took place in northern Scotland when a 61 year old female walked into a horizontal scaffolding pole mounted across two upright poles around five foot (1.5 metres) from the ground. As a result, the victim suffered a cut to the head requiring stitches and a fractured ankle following a fall under the force of the impact.

A HSE investigation found that an offer made to the scaffolder by the local authority building standards officer to temporarily close the footpath where the work was taking place was not taken up. In addition, not only was an insufficient risk assessment undertaken and no measures put into place to exclude the public from the area, i.e. diversions, scaffold warning signs, but also no instructions given to the workforce for the fixing to the poles of any padding or high-visibility warning tape.

As a result, the self-employed scaffolder pleaded guilty to breaching sections 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and fined a total of £1,670.