Scaffolder died from unprotected fall from height


This is a particularly nasty case, involving the death of a worker and the negligence and non-cooperation of his boss who had already been jailed for the murder of his brother.

Mark Hayes (53), of Eltham, SE London, used to trade under the title of WSS Scaffolding. The firm had erected a tower scaffold outside a domestic building in Linden Gardens, Notting Hill, W London. On 2nd July 2012, Grant Dunmall (25) was working on the scaffolding but he fell off it.

No edge protection had been provided on the scaffold to protect him: and he had no harness as primary protection or secondary protection such as netting to mitigate the very long 14-metre fall. Sadly, he died from his injuries.

Cover-up by boss

Nearly as bad as the lack of protection for his employee was the way in which Mark Hayes then persisted in non-cooperation with the HSE investigation. This also delayed the Coroner’s inquest. Hayes refused to supply documentation in what inspectors described as “wilful obstruction”.  They served a ‘Notice to Produce’ to try to force him to hand over the documents so that they could assess his culpability for the fatal accident. This was ignored.

It got so bad that he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court twice over the non-disclosure of documents that he was legally obliged to produce, in January and March 2013, and was fined on both occasions: his offences were connected with breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969.

At long last he produced the papers and HSE was able to finish the investigation into his poor worker’s death. There eventually followed a 3-day trial in September 2014 at Southwark Crown Court at which Mr. Hayes, surprisingly, defended himself. It nevertheless resulted in him receiving a 15-month jail sentence.

Life imprisonment

It also transpires that he had killed his own brother in a feud, and at the Old Bailey court in July 2014 he had already been given a life sentence which he had begun to serve: the new sentence is intended to run concurrently with this.

The HSE Inspector Jack Wilby commented on how Mr. Dunmall’s family and friends suffered enough heartache without having to go through “the convoluted legal process” that was necessary before justice could be done.

As for Mr. Hayes, the Inspector’s comment was:

His wilful obstruction only served to accentuate the fact that his systems and procedures for safely managing work at height were sorely lacking, and fell short of the standards expected from a competent scaffolder… The bottom line here is that Mr. Dunmall was killed in a preventable fall that could have been avoided.

From any professional construction safety person’s perspective, cases like this represent the very worst of the building trades, and it is good that HSE roots out bad apples wherever they can. For the bulk of contractors that seek to work responsibly and within the law, it is advisable for them to seek expert guidance from safety consultants such as McCormack Benson Health & Safety so as to help them work smarter, safer and more efficiently.