Builder injured in fall: building firm blamed for construction safety lapse


A new court judgement emphasises the need for risk assessment and proper adherence to CDM Regulations in the building trades.

Walker Group were building a new house in Edinburgh when in November 2009 worker David Tourish fell off the edge of a temporary staircase and was seriously injured. Another worker had previously removed the guard rail.

A known risk – an avoidable accident

Tourish and a colleague were taking doors up the stairs so that they would not obstruct the building operation. This staircase had a gap between it and a window built into the wall. The protective guard rail had been removed by a joiner to fix plasterboard, and he had not replaced it afterwards.

After moving several doors upstairs, Tourish stepped through the gap while carrying a further door, falling some three metres to a lower landing. He suffered fractured ribs and bruised kidneys. He was signed off for three months and required physiotherapy when he returned.

HSE investigated and concluded that there had been no adequate risk assessment by the company; the manager on-site knew the guard rail was missing and failed to act on this risk; and finally the work was not safely executed. The inspector was quoted as saying that this was a completely avoidable accident that might have been far worse.

So many building site accidents involve unsafe and poorly-planned work at height. Using professional CDM coordinators lessens risk and helps to promote a safer site. Smaller construction sites can often be more dangerous due to a failure to prepare and the temptations to use inadequate equipment. 38 people died from falls from height at work in Great Britain in 2009/10, and this can surely be reduced in future if better working practices are adopted.

In this case, Walker Group pleaded guilty and were fined £8,000. An investment in proper risk assessment and follow-up measures using trained CDM consultants could have prevented this and their legal costs, plus the resulting bad publicity, and most importantly it could have avoided a dangerous and debilitating accident to a worker.