Acorn Scaffolding in Yorkshire has been fined nearly £35,000 after a trainee scaffolder fell through an asbestos roof.
The victim had been working at the company for less than three weeks when he dropped about 13 feet through a roof onto a concrete floor at Lockington Grange Farm, East Riding, in May of 2013.
The man broke all of the wrist bones in his left hand, also crushing nerves in the wrist. His other injuries included a broken right wrist, broken nose, sprained left ankle and shoulder, together with various cuts, grazes and bruises. Three wires had to inserted into his left wrist to hold it together, and he developed carpal tunnel syndrome. A judge said he was fortunate not to have been more badly hurt.
This type of medical condition is caused due to compression of the median nerve as it travels through the wrist at the carpal tunnel. The main symptoms are pain, numbness, and tingling, in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and the thumb side of the ring fingers.
Scaffolding had been changed using existing handrails without a risk assessment. It seems the trainee fell when being handed one of the scaffolding tubes.
The business based in Moxon Lane, Moor Lane Trading Estate, Sherburn-in-Elmet, Leeds, admitted failing to ensure the safety of an employee. It did however, take five years for the criminal case to be concluded in a sentencing hearing in early May. A personal injury claim made by the employee had been settled in October 2014.
The court case
Hull Crown Court heard how the trainee fell through a fragile roof light and may not even have known what it was because it was dirty. “The man, as an untrained scaffolder, should not even have been on the asbestos roof, was not wearing a harness, and no safety measures such as a safety net or “crash deck” had been fitted,” said Lee Fish, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive.
“ Acorn Scaffolding (Yorkshire) Ltd had been sub-contracted to erect scaffolding at the site by Dodds Roofing Services Ltd, which was doing roofing work on a number of buildings at the farm. It appears none of the employees had been trained on how to work on fragile roofs.
Company supervisor Craig Moreland had previously met Andrew Green from Dodds at the farm to discuss the work and survey the site. Lead scaffolder Gary Eyres was then briefed about the task in hand by Mr Moreland with the firm message of taking time over the job and being careful.”
The prosecutor made it clear a method statement completed in April 2013, crucially did not refer at all to the fragility of the roof. He added: “Craig Moreland in his statement accepts candidly when he surveyed the site he had simply not applied his mind to the fitting of safety nets or using a crash deck.
“On the day of the accident, after the scaffolding had been erected, Mr Eyres was asked to go back to the site by Dodds, and took the trainee with him. They were told Dodds could not access gutters on a roof next to a barn because scaffolding tubes were in the guttering.
They spoke to Mr Green at the site and it was suggested the tubes needed pulling back, but Mr Eyres was not particularly happy and did not have appropriate equipment. Mr Green was described as being quite insistent, and Mr Eyres felt under a degree of pressure. The mistake Mr Eyres made was to bow to this pressure”.
Tom Gent, mitigating, apologised to the victim on behalf of Acorn Scaffolding (Yorkshire) Ltd stating: “ Apart from that one incident it had an unblemished safety record in the 20 years it had been trading. Dodds was no longer in business.”
Recorder Richard Woolfall said the fine would have been £50,000 but for the guilty plea, which reduced that by a third to £33,333.33. The company was also ordered to pay £14,638.40 costs.