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POLICE BRING ‘NONCHALANT’ SCAFFOLDER TO BOOK

Early guilty plea, cooperation and contrition help contractor

Christopher Harker trading as C&H Scaffolding and a labourer he employed risked their lives and endangered the public around them with precarious and unsafe work at a Chelsea property.

Mr Harker,  aged 35, clambered up and down the outside of a four-storey scaffold in Cheyne Walk Chelsea on 20 March 2014 and was said to be “completely unconcerned by the fact a fall could have proved fatal”.

The men casually leaned through openings up to 10m from ground and nonchalantly passed materials to each other that could have slipped and caused serious harm to anyone walking below. This unsafe work continued in full view of an HSE Inspector despite Mr Harker knowing the Inspector was present and after the inspector tried to warn him of the danger.

Westminster Magistrates heard (19 November) there was a complete absence of edge protection on the scaffold to prevent or mitigate falls. Neither man was wearing a safety harness, there were no access ladders to some of the work areas. There were large gaps between the boards that also posed a significant fall risk.

Police attend due to hostile attitude

Mr Harker used a system whereby he moved boards from the upper and lower levels of the scaffolding depending on where he or the labourer were working, rather than ensuring that both areas were sufficiently boarded.

He casually tossed objects and materials e.g. scaffolding clips, to his colleague on the level below him. This put the assistant at risk along with members of the public exiting a doorway directly beneath the scaffold.

The police were required to attend in response to Mr Harker’s hostile attitude towards the HSE inspector. It was only when the police attended that he accepted the risks he created as the legal dutyholder responsible for the work.

Mr Harker subsequently apologised unreservedly for his behaviour, complied with all aspects of the HSE investigation and vowed to undertake future scaffolding projects in a safe and legal manner.

Defendant of “limited financial means”

Christopher Harker, of Coronation Hill, Epping, Essex, was fined a total of £800 and ordered to pay £577 in costs after pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. The relatively low penalty reflected the defendant’s limited financial means, early guilty plea and full co-operation throughout.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Verrall-Withers commented:

“The scaffolding work at Cheyne Walk posed a clear danger to the two workers as well as members of the public exiting the building under the scaffolding.

The failings were abundantly obvious and trained scaffolder Mr Harker knew this, which is probably why he reacted in the manner he did. He was caught red-handed, panicked and tried to make the problem go away as he saw it.

However, HSE inspectors cannot and will not turn a blind eye when safety is compromised in this manner – as the scaffolder now fully accepts. He understands that safety rules and standards are designed to protect life and limb, and that cutting corners in order to get a job done is simply not acceptable.”

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