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    Trainee scaffolder fatality caused by poor safety management

    The co-directors of a former London scaffolding firm have been prosecuted after a trainee worker fell to his death from a poorly constructed scaffold. Sonny Holland, aged 20, sustained multiple head injuries in the 6m fall at Whitehall Place on 24 April 2008 and he died in hospital the following day.

    Andrew Geer (48) and James Basquine (60) both directors of Andrew Geer Scaffolding Ltd (now in liquidation) were responsible for the scaffold and for the young worker’s safety.

    Southwark Crown Court heard (2 Sept) that HSE found serious failings with the structure and with their management of the work taking place on it. Sonny was working as a trainee scaffolder when he fell backwards through a opening in the scaffold as he was dragging a ladder beam backwards to pass to a workmate.

    There was nothing in place to prevent or mitigate his fall, he was inadequately supervised and had received no formal training for working safely at height.

    Sentence not a “measure of the life” of the deceased

    Summing up at Southwark Crown Court Judge Taylor said both Mr Geer and Mr Basquine were “equally culpable in respect to this incident” and that the sentence imposed was “not a measure of the life of Sonny Holland”.

    • Andrew Geer, of Bromley Green Road, Ruckinge, Ashford, was fined a total £5,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 towards prosecution costs after being found guilty of two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. He was declared bankrupt in 2010 and was deemed as having no disposable or future income in order to pay a higher penalty.
    • James Basquine, of Ridgeway, Dunstable, was also fined a total of £5,000 and told to pay £1,000 towards costs for being found guilty of the same breaches. He too is bankrupt with limited means.

    Both parties were found not guilty of further single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations. Mr Geer was also found not guilty of a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

    After sentencing, HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented:

    “Work at height on scaffolds is inherently fraught with risk, and it is vital that scaffolds are properly erected, adequately safeguarded and that all work is carefully controlled, managed and supervised.

    That clearly didn’t happen here and Sonny Holland was tragically killed as a result.

    It is important we secured justice in bringing this case to court, and we will continue to prosecute when clear safety failings are identified. As the offences here relate to 2008, the Judge was unable to use the current sentencing powers, which include possible imprisonment.”

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