Tragic case highlights need for proper scaffold safety measures

An inquest into the death of a painter who fell from a scaffold tower on the outskirts of Dublin last year has recorded a verdict of death my misadventure, and has also highlighted just how dangerous improper use of scaffold towers is.

John Kelly was an experienced painter painting the outside of a house when the 4.35m scaffold tower he was using toppled over. Mr Kelly was actually standing on a ladder placed on top of the tower when the accident happened. His colleague Colin Dunne was supporting the ladder when the tower started to move. Mt Dunne managed to jump clear of the tower but Mr Kelly was not so lucky and died on impact with the ground.

Unsafe practices

The Irish equivalent of the Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), investigated the case and found a number of safety failures which contributed to the tragedy. HSA inspector David O’Connell noted that because the scaffold was more than 2.7 metres in height it should have had “outriggers” attached to support it. There were also no guardrails in place or toeboards, and was not tied “in any way” to add security.

Of the three caster wheels at the bottom of the tower, only three were locked whilst the fourth was unlocked. It is conjectured that this may also have contributed to the instability of the tower. Furthermore, Mr O’Connell informed the court that neither Mr Kelly nor his colleague Mr Dunne had a construction ticket for erecting scaffolding.

Experience is no substitute for proper safety training

Mr Kelly was a veteran painter who had some 50 years’ experience in the trade. Referred to in court as a ‘master painter’, Mr Kelly was recognised for his high standard of workmanship. He had previously worked on the ceiling of the St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral in Dublin, as well as contributing to the restoration of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.

One of the saddest parts of this incident is the fact that proper safety training in the use of scaffold towers, ladders and working at height in general may have prevented it from happening. Working in such an environment is notoriously dangerous if safety practices are not undertaken. For more information on scaffold towers, click here: Tower scaffold information sheet. Many people fall from height every year due to a lack of training and proper risk assessment. Such training is an investment which has an invaluable reward in the form of protecting workers form such terrible injuries.

Death by misadventure

A member of the local police force, Sgt Ivan Howlin, reported that Mr Kelly was believed to have loaned the scaffold tower from an acquaintance but thus far it has not been possible to discover who this was. He also confirmed that no suspicious circumstances were being investigated regarding the death. The jury returned a verdict of death by misadventure.

If you would like to find out more about safety training for working at height with mobile towers, scaffolding and ladders, contact us today. We have a range of training courses to suit many different roles and professions.