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    FATALITY CAUSED BY INADEQUATE ANCHOR FIXING

    Chimney scaffold collapse firms sentenced after steeplejack death 

    Two firms have been ordered to pay over £180k in fines and prosecution costs after a steeplejack fell 50m to his death from a disused chimney in Bolton on 4 June 2007.  

    John Alty and another worker were at the top of the chimney when the scaffolding they were on collapsed. The 40-year-old father-of-one from Blackburn was pronounced dead at the scene whilst his colleague survived by clinging to a ladder on the outside of the chimney.

    Manchester Crown Court heard that Bailey International Steeplejack Company Ltd was carrying out repairs to the chimney brickwork. Mr Alty had been striking the scaffolding when it gave way.

    Scaffold fixings strength inadequate

    Bailey International Steeplejack Company Ltd, of Bollington, admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay £80,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.

    Ken Brogden Ltd, of Heywood, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £10,000 with costs of £16,000.

    HSE investigators established that the company Bailey International failed to:

    • use strong enough anchor fixings to secure the scaffolding to the chimney;
    • take into account the poor condition of the brickwork at the top of the chimney; and
    • check the scaffolding design and test the fixings before they were used.
    Recent welding repair left ‘weakened joints’

    The court also heard that the scaffolding had been damaged on a previous contract and that Ken Brogden Ltd had been hired to repair the scaffold. However, rather than ‘grinding out’ the joints and re-welding them the company merely welded over the weakened joints.

    HSE has issued a video regarding this prosecution. Investigating Inspector Stuart Kitchingman said:

    “If the work had been properly managed, and carried out to industry standards, then Mr Alty would still be alive today.

    Our investigation found that the most likely cause of the scaffolding collapsing was the weak anchor fixings. But we could not rule out the poorly repaired joints on the scaffolding as a possible cause of Mr Alty’s death.

    Working as a steeplejack is a potentially dangerous job, and they need to be able to rely on their employers to provide equipment that keeps them safe. Unfortunately, the scaffolding and fixings that were provided simply weren’t up to the job.

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