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    Contractor prosecuted over dangerous practices and design errors

    Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited has been fined for a catalogue of safety failings, including throwing and catching metal fittings over the heads of shoppers, during the erection of two scaffolds outside an Oxford department store.

    The stability of the structures was undermined because the company failed to ensure the structures were properly configured, braced and tied. The HSE Scaffold Checklist covers scaffold design, training and competence of those erecting, dismantling, altering, inspecting and supervising scaffolding operations..

    HSE told magistrates that (17 March) investigation uncovered a series of issues including:

    • Metal fittings thrown from a flatbed lorry over the heads of passers-by;
    • Scaffold poles hoisted above shoppers with no thought to their safety;
    • Pedestrians forced to walk into the road with no measures to protect them from passing vehicles.
    • Scaffolds not built to an approved safe design, inadequately braced and tied;
    • Scaffolds poorly configured (potential for overloading) and loads not transferred safely to the ground.

    The scaffolds were erected on the morning of Sunday 30 September 2012 when there was significant footfall in the area.

    Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that although nobody was injured the activity was inherently unsafe. There was a significant risk that the scaffold could have collapsed.

    Little thought given to the safety of shoppers

    Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited, of Cheshunt, Herts, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £760 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and four breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

    After the hearing HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove commented:

    “There were clear concerns with the manner in which the scaffolds were erected, as captured by CCTV. Then there are the failings with the structures themselves, the fact they weren’t built to an approved design and were inadequately tied and braced.

    All scaffolds should be erected in a safe manner, but the risks are magnified when you are working in a busy city centre location with lots of traffic and pedestrians, as was the case here.

    Little thought was given to shoppers as fittings and poles were tossed or passed over their heads, and today’s conviction serves to illustrate the seriousness of the failings we uncovered. Thankfully nobody was injured, but that is the only saving grace.”

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