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Working at height

Risk assessment failures ended in tragedy

A worker was fatally injured when he fell five metres while dismantling scaffolding. What went wrong and who was held responsible for this accident?

Two workers, engaged by Wembley Scaffolding Services Ltd (WSS Ltd), were dismantling scaffolding in London on 16 February 2017. The scaffold collapsed, and one of the workers fell at least five metres onto the concrete pavement below, suffering serious head injuries. He died from his injuries on 4 March 2017.

The HSE’s investigation into the accident found that WSS Ltd’s director, Mr Chapple (C), had not carried out a suitable risk assessment or planned the work properly, and the required safety measures had not been put in place. He did not have the necessary expertise on the control measures needed to carry out this work safely and had not provided a suitable design for the erection and dismantling of the scaffold.

The company pleaded guilty to breaching its duty to ensure that the scaffold complied with the safety requirements set out in Part II of Schedule 3 to the Work at Height Regulations 2005. It was fined £7,860 and ordered to pay costs of £8,940.

C pleaded guilty to his part in his company’s breach. He was fined £1,000, received a twelve-week prison sentence suspended for one year, and was ordered to pay costs of £11,000.

The dismantling of the scaffolding had not been risk assessed or planned, so the necessary safety measures had not been implemented. There was no proper design for erecting and dismantling the scaffold, which is a crucial safety requirement. Both the company and its director were held liable.

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