Work at height remains the biggest threat
A Fife construction firm has been fined for risking workers’ lives by using unsafe scaffolding.
G and G Contracts (Fife) Ltd was fined £2,000 after pleading guilty to breaching The Work at Height Regulations 2005. And the company was penalised at the same time as new statistics revealed that construction remains the UK’s most dangerous industry.
Dangerous scaffolding was identified by Health and Safety Executive inspectors during an unannounced visit to a G and G site in Culross in April 2010.
Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard that work to construct a single-storey house extension had reached the stage where roof tiling, installation of a skylight and other work to make the building wind- and water-tight remained outstanding. A scaffold was in the process of being constructed by workers employed by the company. However, it appeared incomplete when the inspectors arrived and it was quickly established that those involved in erecting it were not trained or competent to do so.
The scaffold was also being used by two workers from a plumbing and heating firm sub-contracted by G and G Contracts to install lead flashing.
The inspectors ordered all work to stop and carried out a full inspection which revealed deficiencies including missing guardrails, bracings and toe boards, and no guarding on a working platform. The ledgers used to hold the structure together were incorrectly placed and an access ladder was not properly secured and did not extend to a sufficient height.
After the sentence was announced HSE inspector Mike Orr said: “Falls from height are one of the main causes of fatalities and serious injuries in the workplace, and employers cannot afford to ignore the risks. Thankfully no-one was injured as a result of the deficiencies in the scaffolding at this site, which posed a clear danger to those who were required to use it in order to work at height.”
In the 12 months to April 2012, 49 workers lost their lives on construction sites in the UK, with falls from height the most common cause of fatal injuries.
Meanwhile, employers are being urged to focus on ‘real risk’ after 20 workers lost their lives in Scotland last year, an increase of six on the previous year.
The Health and Safety Executive has asked business to rethink workplace safety provisions in the New Year after the number of deaths in Great Britain as a whole failed to show a significant fall in 2011/12. A total of 173 workers were killed last year, compared to 175 during 2010/11. More than 23,000 workers suffered major injuries.
The 20 deaths and 2,240 major injuries in Scotland last year compare to 14 deaths and 2,660 major injuries in 2010/11. Construction leads the UK high-risk table with 49 deaths last year followed by agriculture (33) and manufacturing (31).
David Snowball, HSE director for Scotland & Northern England, said: “Each year, instead of enjoying the occasion, families of workers in Scotland who failed to come home from work spend Christmas and the New Year thinking of the loved ones who are not there to enjoy it with them.
“Hundreds of other workers who have had their lives changed by major injury will be experiencing difficulties of their own. I hope that in 2013 employers will tackle the real rather than the trivial dangers that workers face and not mire themselves in pointless paperwork so we can reduce the number of workplace deaths and major injury.”