Untrained worker falls from scaffolding


It is essential to good building safety practice that workers are trained before carrying out any work, and that the proper precautions are observed. In this sad case, neither of these requirements was met.

Mills Scaffold Company Ltd was responsible for erecting a 3-level scaffold for work being carried out on the exterior of a nursing home building in Bridgend. In June 2013, the scaffolding was being dismantled by three workers, one of which was 37-year-old Andrew Gore.

The key weaknesses were that -

  • Mr. Gore had received no training in scaffolding work
  • He was not wearing a harness
  • The scaffold lift on which he was standing was only two boards wide
  • The firm had not installed any protective guard rails

There was a worker on the third lift, and he was handing down lengths of scaffold tube etc. to Mr. Gore on the second lift. He in turn then handed them on to the man on the ground.

At one point he had just unscrewed the swivel coupling on a brace, and he then leaned on it. It gave way under his weight and Mr. Gore fell to earth, some 4 metres below. He suffered much pain from many medical complications and his lower leg became infected, requiring amputation. He has been in hospital, enduring multiple operations, for much of the time since. As a single parent, this has been a terrible tragedy for him.

Previous Incident

It emerged from the HSE investigation that Mills Scaffold Company had committed a similar offence in 2012 and been served a Prohibition Notice, which compounded their culpability for this incident.

And to make matters even worse, the firm failed to report this very severe accident – it was only because Mr. Gore completed an insurance claim due to the amputation, 6 months after the event, that matters came to light and the HSE was made aware of what had happened.

Bridgend Magistrates Court fined Mills Scaffold Company Ltd (of Mountain Ash) the sum of £15,000 as a result of infractions of the Work at Height regulations, and also the Reporting of Injuries Regulations – due to the failure to report to HSE. The company also has to pay prosecution fees of £1,118.

HSE Inspector Hayley Healey pointed out that the company should have instituted a safe system of work, and used only workers who had previously been trained in scaffolding erection and dismantling. She said:

There is plenty of industry guidance available about safely dismantling scaffolding. If simple methods of work had been followed, levels of competency checked and good supervision in place on site, this work could have been carried out safely.

If any building contractors want to improve their staff’s awareness about minimising risk when working at height, data can be read here. And for practical and construction industry-specific safety consultancy, McCormack Benson Health & Safety can be found here.