Unprotected scaffold work horrifies passer-by


Remember the classic poster showing New York construction workers sitting on a girder hundreds of feet in the air? Unthinkable in the health and safety culture of today, right? Well this case shows that flagrantly unsafe working does happen on some building sites. It is fortunate that a public-spirited citizen caught the offence on camera.

Crest Scaffolding Services was the firm responsible (if that is the right word in the circumstances) for assembling scaffolding at a 3-storey office in Horley, Surrey.

Owner sets bad example

The owner, Jason Hewett (44), was one of those seen on 4th February 2014 to be standing unprotected on a single horizontal tube. Alongside him was one of his employees. They were 9 metres in the air, a height from which a fall would very likely be fatal. Another worker was similarly at risk on the site.

The first of two photos produced to the hearing at Redhill Magistrates Court shows Hewett and his colleague without any guardrails or personal protection such as a harness.

The second (seen here) shows boards in place at another point but still no guardrail in place, and no harnesses or landing mats.

The horrified passer-by thankfully had the presence of mind to record the occurrence and the resulting photos arrived on the desk of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its inspectors found every reason to prosecute the errant scaffolding contractor.

Light Fine

The resulting fine for Jason Hewett, also of Horley, Surrey, was only £265, plus £511 of prosecution costs, for breaching the Work at Height Regulations 2005. If there had been an accident or fatality, the seriousness and the consequences would have been much, much greater.

The comment from the responsible HSE Inspector (Amanda Huff) after the hearing was:

Jason Hewett put his own life at risk and the lives of two other workers by carrying out this scaffolding job in a totally unsafe manner.  Anyone falling from nine metres would likely be killed and that type of disregard for safety is totally unacceptable. Mr Hewett failed to follow basic safety precautions and heed the professional guidance available to scaffolding companies. Where practical when erecting scaffolding, they should work from a fully-boarded scaffold and guardrail. If this is not possible, all scaffolders should wear clipped-on harnesses.

If you are in doubt about any aspect of safety whilst working at height, see http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls.

Practical on-the-ground (and above ground) advice can be obtained at a reasonable cost by calling McCormack Benson Health & Safety to arrange for a trained, experienced construction safety consultant to visit your site.