Another faulty scaffolding case highlights construction safety shortcomings
When we hear about health and safety cases that come to the courts, they have inevitably done so after quite a delay, sometimes years. However, there has been a worrying clutch of cases recently involving poor scaffolding erection that could highlight an area of weakness in the field of building safety.
This latest case was severe enough to justify a prison sentence for the contractor involved (56-year old Rodney Foyster from Lincoln) – albeit the sentence was suspended.
It is hardly surprising when you discover that he had no training or experience in scaffolding, and that instead of hiring a professional, certified scaffold company he took a cheap but unsafe option, bought second-hand scaffolding and erected it himself. In so doing he made what was later described as “a catalogue of errors”.
He had been engaged to repair the damaged wall of a warehouse into which a lorry had reversed. His chosen method of operation was to erect towers both inside the building and out, and to connect them in a makeshift way using boards that he had taken from the inside structure. That of course left it even more lacking in protection than previously. The shortcomings of the towers included -
- no edge protection
- lack of ladder safety
- insufficient access to the twin pieces of scaffolding
Without checking that this was fit for use and suitably safe, he then hired elderly bricklayer Robert Wilkin (70) and his son Damien. They had to use this dangerous scaffolding, accessing it from one ladder on the inside and then traversing the rickety boarding across the wall.
Bricklayer falls from unsafe boards
On the fateful day (14th February 2013), Damien successfully climbed up and made the crossing, but his father fell off the boards and landed between pallets of bricks on a concrete floor 3 metres below. It was hard for the ambulance personnel to get to him and they took 20 minutes to support his back on a board before taking him to hospital, where he remained for 5 months. He was in a lot of pain and he underwent an operation to fuse his broken spine, but he has been left without the ability to walk so that he requires a wheelchair at all times. His home has had to be adapted so he lives on the ground floor only.
HSE inspectors immediately served a Prohibition Notice which prevented Mr Foyster from doing any more work using the twin scaffolds until proper safety precautions were taken on them. And now, a year later, he could face jail if he re-offends, and he has to carry out community service.
One’s heart goes out to the unfortunate veteran ex-bricklayer, who has suffered an appalling injury which has taken away his quality of life; and one must also point out to any contractor, big or small, that construction health and safety is not an added extra but something that must be built in to one’s planning – and that trying to buy cheap old materials and then carry out work for which you are not qualified is a recipe for disaster.