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MAJOR HOMES BUILDER OVERLOADED PLATFORM

Developer and scaffolding contractor both held to account for errors

Persimmon Homes Ltd and Cathedral Scaffold Company Ltd have been fined after two bricklayers were hurt when they fell from an unsafe scaffold. Lincoln Magistrates’ Court heard the two men were on a development site in Lincoln when the incident happened on 4 April 2012.

The men were using a scaffold platform 6m from the ground loaded with materials when it collapsed and they fell some 2m to a platform below. One man fractured a foot and was unable to work for nine weeks. The second bruised his neck, twisted his knee and missed one day of work.

HSE investigators found the scaffolding contractor constructed the platform to bridge a narrow gap between the gable ends of two properties. However, the platform was not built to a recognised design, which would have incorporated standards to transfer loads to the ground. They wrongly believed they could not fit them and a four board-wide working platform, as required by Persimmon, into the gap.

One pack of blocks created danger

A non-standard configuration of scaffolding was used but the company failed to carry out strength and stability calculations to ensure it was fit for purpose. The company issued a Hand Over certificate setting out restrictions on the use of the scaffold.

The certificate identified the structure as a “general purpose scaffold” capable of supporting a specified distributed weight load. However, because strength or stability calculations had not been undertaken by either defendant the distributed load could not be guaranteed.

Persimmon Homes Ltd subsequently overloaded the platform, causing it to collapse.

HSE found the weight of just one pack of dry blocks distributed evenly over the platform would have taken the structure over the load limit. It was likely that the actual loading could have increased the danger as the blocks were all stacked towards one side of the platform.

Design required when beyond basic configuration

Persimmon Homes Ltd, of Fulford, York, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(b)(i) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was today (28 July) fined £8,000 and ordered to pay £10,426 costs.

The Cathedral Scaffold Company Ltd, of Dixon Way, Lincoln, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 8(b)(ii) of the same Regulations and was fined £4,000 with costs of £5,500.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Linda-Jane Rigby said:

“Unless a scaffold is a basic configuration described in recognised guidance it should be designed by calculation, by a competent person, to ensure it will have adequate strength and suitability.

The design information should describe the sequence and methods to be adopted when erecting, dismantling and altering the scaffold. That did not happen in this case.

Persimmon accepted handover of the scaffold and subsequently overloaded it, causing it to collapse.”

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