A tragic incident involving scaffolding has occurred on a site in the UK, which although sad can teach workers and employers an important lesson in scaffolding safety.

The incident occurred when a young worker was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m to his death. The workers father has blamed a breach in site safety as the cause of the death. Another worker who was working nearby was also injured in the incident but thankfully escaped with his life. The principal contractor was blamed for the safety breach and received a hefty fine.

BBc.co.uk reported on the incident:


Two construction companies have been fined more than £300,000 after an employee fell to his death when he became entangled in a chain.

Christopher Heaton, 25, from St Helens, was working on flats in Manchester when he was dragged over a scaffolding platform guardrail and fell 22m (72ft).

Shawton Engineering and Amec Group were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court over breaches in safety rules.

Mr Heaton’s father, Len, said his son’s death in 2004 devastated his family.

Falling steel

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted steel-erection company, Shawton Engineering, and the site’s principal contractor, Amec Group, following an investigation into Mr Heaton’s death.

It found Mr Heaton had been using a chain from a scaffolding platform to adjust a steel beam three stories above him, while working on the city centre apartments, when one of the supporting brackets gave way.

He was struck by a falling steel block, became entangled in the operating chain and was dragged over the edge of the scaffolding.

Another worker, who does not want to be named, was also injured.

The investigation concluded the wrong studs had been used to secure the chain and the work had not been properly planned or monitored.

‘Happy go lucky’

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Heaton said: “The loss of our son has completely devastated our lives.

“Chris was a good lad, with a happy go lucky outlook. He loved his job and was looking forward to a career in engineering.

“I used to worry about him all the time, especially when he was out at night. Ironically, I didn’t worry too much when he was at work. I thought he was safe.

“Chris would still be alive today if simple health and safety rules were adhered to and hopefully lessons have been learned to stop this type of incident happening again.”

Neil Jamieson, HSE Principal Inspector for Construction, described the incident as “horrifying” and said: “If either Chris’s employer, Shawton Engineering, or the principal contractor on the site, Amec, had acted differently then his life could have been saved.”

Shawton Engineering Ltd, of Sankey Valley Industrial Estate, Newton le Willows, Merseyside, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 by failing to provide and maintain a safe system of work.

The company received a nominal fine of £1 because it had gone into administration.

Amec Group Ltd, of Birchwood Boulevard, Birchwood, Warrington, was found guilty of breaching part of the same act, by failing to ensure the safety of workers, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

It was handed a fine of £300,000 plus costs of £333,866.

The latest figures show that 50 construction workers were killed while at work in Great Britain in 2010-11 and there were nearly 3,000 major injuries.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-18647955

If this incident has raised alarm bells in your head and you fear for your own safety on site there are a few questions you can ask yourself, from erection to dismantling to help you determine whether scaffolding work is being performed to standard or not.

  • Has a competent formwork designer/manufacturer/supplier designed the system?
  • Has the formwork been properly constructed? Are all the formwork components, support timbers and structural ply, in a serviceable condition?
  • Is the formwork deck safely laid?
  • Is the steel fixing being done safely?
  • Is the formwork structurally adequate?
  • Are the wall and column shutters safely lifted and secured?  During strong winds large shutters need to be secured and not lifted.
  • Are workers prevented from accessing the area beneath the concrete pour?
  • Are concrete pumps being used safely?
  • Are kibbles being used safely? Crane-lifted concrete kibbles normally require a person with a dogging or rigging certificate to operate them and direct their movement.
  • Are concrete vibrators being used safely? Vibrators should be well maintained and fully serviceable.
  • Are the concreters working safely?
  • Is formwork being dismantled safely?

If proper safety is not being followed, employees should report the matter immediately as it poses a risk to all workers on site.

Posted by Steven Asnicar



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