Prosecution over duty failings

A property developer and the firm it contracted to erect scaffolding have both been fined for safety breaches – serving as another stark warning to designers.

A developer for the refurbishment of a building engaged a scaffolding contractor to erect the scaffold on the site before appointing a principal contractor, and by doing so the developer took the role of principal contractor themselves.

Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court heard how officers from Ealing Council observed very unsafe practices during the erection and asked the workers on site to stop before referring the matter to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE.) A prohibition notice was then served on the scaffolding contractor by HSE.

Following a further inspection, a Dangerous Structure Notice was served which required the developer to make safe or take down the scaffold. However, before it could be taken down, the two companies involved would have to satisfy the HSE that this could be completed with a safe system of work in place.

Despite no such reassurance being given, the scaffolding contractor took the scaffold down. It was dismantled so unsafely, on a busy high street full of shoppers, that members of the public asked the police to intervene.

When HSE arrived the following day, most of the scaffold was down but a second prohibition notice was also served as workers were still at risk of falls.

The scaffolding contractor pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £18,000 with costs of £964.

The developer pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1)(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and was fined £18,000 with costs of £932 for failing to plan, manager and monitor the construction phase safely. Although the developer was fined under CDM 2007, the duties are the same as under CDM 2015, Regulation 13.

As the developer failed to appoint a Principal Contractor, these duties therefore fell onto themselves. That’s why it’s important for all clients to appoint, in writing, both the Principal Contractor and Principal Designer where there is more than one contractor, or the client itself will be deemed to have assumed the duties.

The contractor could have also been charged under Regulation 19 of the CDM regulations 2015, which covers the stability of structures.

We provide Principal Designer services to the construction industry. We can also provide support and advice on health and safety policy arrangements, procedures and general issues. Please contact us on 01772 736522 or email for more information.