Safety failings at Debenhams lands scaffolding company in court
18 March 2014
A Hertfordshire scaffolding firm has been fined for a catalogue of safety failings – including throwing and catching metal fittings over the heads of shoppers – as they erected two scaffolds outside the Oxford branch of Debenhams.
Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited also failed to ensure the structures outside the department store on George Street and Magdalen Street were properly configured, braced and tied, which undermined their stability. The Cheshunt-based company was prosecuted on the 17th March by the Health and Safety Executive after an investigation uncovered a series of issues.
- Metal fittings were thrown from a flatbed lorry over the heads of passers-by – as captured by CCTV
- Heavy scaffold poles were also hoisted above shoppers with no thought to their safety
- Pedestrians were forced to walk into the road to avoid the activity, with no measures in place to protect them from passing vehicles
The two scaffolds were not built to an approved safe design and were inadequately braced and tied They were also poorly configured, with the potential for overloading parts of the structure, and loads could not be transferred safely to the ground The scaffolds were erected on the morning of Sunday 30 September 2012 when there was significant footfall in the area.
Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that although nobody was injured, either from the work or from a collapse or fall, the activity was inherently unsafe.
HSE established that as a result of the failings there was a significant risk that the scaffold could have collapsed.
Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited, of Turners Hill, Cheshunt, Herts, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £706 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and four breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.
After the hearing HSE inspector Peter Snelgrove commented: "The issues here are two-fold. There were clear concerns with the manner in which the scaffolds were erected, as captured by CCTV. Then there are the failings with the structures themselves, the fact they weren’t built to an approved design and were inadequately tied and braced.
"All scaffolds should be erected in a safe manner, but the risks are magnified when you are working in a busy city centre location with lots of traffic and pedestrians, as was the case here.
"Little thought was given to shoppers as fittings and poles were tossed or passed over their heads, and today’s conviction serves to illustrate the seriousness of the failings we uncovered. Thankfully nobody was injured, but that is the only saving grace.”