Scaffolding firm fined over ladder fall

A Birmingham firm has been fined thousands of pounds after a worker suffered life-changing injuries in a fall of just two metres from a ladder.

Craig Shakespeare, from Birmingham, now has to rely on a wheelchair after breaking both his heels in the incident at The Bond on Fazeley Street, Birmingham, on 25 March 2013. He has been unable to work since.

He was working for Swan Scaffolding Contractors Limited, which was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to ensure sufficient measures were in place to prevent or mitigate the fall.

Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard on 8 May that the company was building the supporting scaffold to hold a theatrical set in place.

Mr Shakespeare was working from a ladder to attach the scaffold to the back of the set. As he pulled a fixture on the set towards the scaffold, the fixture came away and as he lost his balance and realised he was about to fall, he jumped but landed heavily on his feet.

HSE established that a tower scaffold or elevated work platform should have been used instead of a ladder.

In the subsequent criminal prosecution, Swan Scaffolding Contractors Limited, of Knowle, Solihull, pleaded guilty to breaching regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £535 in costs and a £500 victim surcharge.

A personal injury claim might lead to an award of substantial compensation for the employee against Swan Scaffolding Contractors Limited.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Edward Fryer said: “The danger of using ladders should not be underestimated. This is another example of serious injuries being sustained where other access equipment could have been used instead.

“A tower scaffold was available and should have been used. As a scaffolding company, Swan Scaffolding should be experts in access and working at height. They know it is a high-risk activity, and they should know what measures to put in place to keep workers safe.”

Last year more than 6,300 employees suffered major injuries after falling from height at work, which was an issue explored and presented by Palmers’ specialist Lara Murray at Palmers’ Spring Update for Employers in April. For details of future events, please contact us on employment@palmerslaw.co.uk

For more information on how Palmers can assist employers with health and safety compliance issues, including working at height, please contact Lara Murray or if you are facing investigation or prosecution on a health and safety matter, please contact Jeremy Sirrell.