In a recent prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) a loft conversion company has been fined a total of £6019 including costs at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The company were brought to trial after an employee was injured when scaffolding collapsed while he was working on a home in North London.

The whole scaffold buckled and collapsed, because it had been overloaded – it was estimated in court that the load on the structure was between 3 and 3.5 tonnes, the equivalent of a transit van. The scaffold was unequal to loads of this size and also had been incorrectly built, with no allowance made for an overhanging bay window. The employee, who broke
two ribs but avoided other injury, fell six metres to the ground, landing among debris of the scaffolding and the load it had been carrying.

An experienced company should have known better.

The magistrates were informed that the loft conversion company was a very experienced one and should have known how to erect the scaffolding correctly. This failure to protect their employees from injury was looked on very seriously, resulting in a substantial fine. The company pleaded guilty to the single charge of being in breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. This case underlines a common problem which causes a number of workplace accidents every year and this is complacency when working in a known environment, even when it has inherent dangers, such as working at a height.

Scaffold training is essential and must be up to date.

There are a number of training courses available for those who work on scaffolding towers and they cover every aspect of health and safety. Working at height accounts for more deaths than any other workplace accident and so the more training staff receive, the better. There are even working at height training courses available for those who work only tangentially with scaffolding towers, including managers.

This means that there are more people in any workplace who are aware of the dangers and pitfalls of working on a scaffold, so any mistakes in construction or shortcuts taken by a member of staff are more likely to be spotted. Even inappropriate risk taking by someone who is not following guidelines will be seen and can be remedied.

Ladders and their correct usage are also covered in training courses and although most of the health and safety advice could be seen to be common sense, having it taught in a classroom environment or in situ on the job can reinforce and establish better practice, which can save lives. Even low platforms can carry risks and there are specific courses aimed at people who erect and use low podia and similar constructions. Put simply, any working area above the ground has the potential for serious injury or even death of the worker at height or those on the ground below, and so there is absolutely no such thing as too much training.