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Company in Court for Scaffold Collapse

13th March 2015

A dramatic scaffold collapse outside a property in North London has resulted in a company being fined for safety failings..


The over-loaded structure buckled, tipped towards the home it was being used to serve and bent in on itself – effectively creating a chute that sent the worker and an array of materials, including plaster boards, wood and lead rolls, crashing six metres to the ground below.

One of the workers involved in the work broke two ribs in the fall at the property in Hornsey, in  October 2013, but was fortunate not to have been more seriously injured or even killed.

His employer, a loft conversion company, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified clear failings with the design of the scaffold.

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard it was being used to provide access to the roof of a traditional two-storey property where a loft conversion was underway, and had been built to reach across a ground level bay window.

HSE established that the weight of the materials on the structure at the time of collapse was between 3-3.5 tonnes – the equivalent of a transit van. This was far greater than it could safely handle and it gave way as it was simply unable to bear the load.

Magistrates were told that, as they were routinely engaged with work at height,the company should have known the work required a scaffold built to an approved design, for example, TG20:13 or bespoke design by a competent Engineer.

The company was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay a further £1,019 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After the hearing, the HSE Inspector involved said:

“The collapse would not have occurred had the scaffold been designed by a competent specialist to carry loads of 3.5 tonnes with an overhanging cantilever to accommodate the bay window.

“That didn’t happen and a worker  suffered a painful injury as a result – although he is perhaps fortunate not to have come off a lot worse.

“The company failed to adequately plan and design the scaffold that collapsed; failed to manage the storage of heavy materials; and ultimately failed to protect its workforce.”

This serves as yet another case to prove that scaffolding isn’t always given the respect it deserves.  As shown in the image, the scaffold appears to be fairly routine in configuration and even the most basic level of planning would ensure that that scaffold was constructed safely and in a manner that suited the work activity.