18.04.19

Scaffold Fall Highlights Need for Access Prevention

By Stephen Allen-Tidy, NASC Health & Safety Advisor

A six-figure fine handed down to a developer after a boy fell from a scaffold ladder has highlighted the need for contractors to ensure they take steps to prevent unauthorised access to their sites.

Westdale Services Limited received a £160,000 fine at Cardiff Magistrates Court after the 12-year-old suffered life-changing injuries in the fall. The court heard how two boys climbed the rungs of a ladder within scaffolding erected by Westdale Services Limited at Southville Flats, Cwmbran, by placing their feet either side of a ladder guard that did not fully cover the rungs of the ladder.

One boy climbed to the top platform of the scaffold and climbed the uppermost ladder to a height of approximately 10 metres. The ladder slipped, causing the boy to lose his balance and fall to the ground.

The boy now has no bladder or bowel control and is only able to walk short distances due to being unstable on his feet. An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the security arrangements for preventing access to the scaffolding, especially by children from a nearby school, were inadequate.

Westdale Services Limited of Doncaster Road, Askern, Doncaster pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and were subsequently fined £160,000 and ordered to pay £22,310 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Michael Batt said: “The death or injury of a child is particularly tragic and a lot of thought must go into securing construction sites. Children do not perceive danger as adults do. The potential for unauthorised access to construction sites must be carefully risk assessed and effective controls put in place.

“This incident could have been prevented by removal of the ladder completely or installing an appropriately sized ladder guard to cover the full width of the rungs.”

It is Mr Batt’s prevention advice that the NASC is keen for all principal contractors and scaffolding contractors to take from this incident.

The NASC has guidance on the use and storage of ladders on scaffolding; SG25:14 Access and Egress from Scaffolds via Ladders & Stair Towers. This document was revised in June 2018 to incorporate a new image showing a ladder guard that fully covers the rungs of a ladder rungs left in situ, preventing anyone from scaling it.

A completely updated guidance, SG25:19, will be released later this year. SG25:14 is available for free download via the NASC’s online shop here.

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