Scaffold firm fined over death

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A SCAFFOLDING firm, its director and supervisor have all been fined over health and safety failings after a worker fell and died of head injuries at a construction site.

At a court hearing, Hooe-based Apex Scaffolding (Sussex) Ltd, its director, Michael Walsh, and Leslie Hustwayte, a supervisor, were sentenced for negligence and defects which contributed towards the death of 31-year-old Joseph Murphy on August 10, 2009.

He had been building a scaffold over-roof at a house in Washington Avenue in St Leonards, when he fell.

Mr Murphy, of Dorset Road South, Bexhill, who had been in the trade for nine years, was working with Hustwayte and labourer Sean Baldwin. Their job was to get the house ready for a firm of builders due to carry out a loft conversion.

At an inquest in November 2010, Hustwayte, a scaffolder with 30 years experience, said he suddenly heard a crash of metal and soon after saw Mr Murphy lying on the ground at the foot of the ladder. As he was out of sight of his workmates it was not known if he fell from a ladder or from the scaffolding.

A verdict of accidental death was recorded by coroner Alan Craze.

Following Mr Murphy’s death the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched its case against Apex and the case came before Hastings magistrates on Friday.

A HSE investigation discovered a number of defects with the scaffolding at the site, including missing hand rails and incomplete scaffold platforms.

Evidence of deficient working practices by Hustwayte and a negligent safety culture within the company were also found.

Magistrates were told that Prohibition Notices had previously been served on Apex Scaffolding (Sussex) Ltd and on individual employees for unsafe working practices, but the poor attitude to safety in the organisation continued.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said: “HSE and the scaffolding industry have worked together to produce easy to follow guidance to help contractors ensure their scaffolding is safe. So there is no excuse for compromising safety, as was clearly the case here.

“HSE takes firm action against individuals and contractors who ignore their health and safety obligations. It is essential that contractors and contract managers equip themselves with the necessary information and guidance material and apply it every time a scaffold is built.”

Apex Scaffolding (Sussex) Ltd, of Court House, Hooe, Walsh, of King Edward Avenue, and Hustwayte, of Asten Close, St Leonards, all pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) and Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005 in relation to the safety failings. Hustwayte also admitted breaching Regulation 14(2) of the same legislation.

The company was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs, Walsh was fined £1,500 with £2,500 in costs and Hustwayte, £2,000 with costs of £2,500.