Scaffolding firm guilty of safety breaches

A SCAFFOLDING company has been fined £30,000 for health and safety breaches which ‘could have caused a fatal accident’ after metal objects fell from height in town, narrowly missing passing pedestrians.

Royal Court (24214557)
Royal Court (24214557)

K-Lok Scaffolding pleaded guilty to two incidents which occurred last March, while the company was working on the Standard Chartered Bank building in Castle Street.

Outlining the details of the offences in the Royal Court on Friday, Crown Advocate Conrad Yates said that the company was employed as a subcontractor while the bank was having its exterior redecorated.

The scaffolding K-Lok erected consisted of nine levels of working platforms, each one measuring roughly two metres.

The incidents resulting in the charges occurred on 13 and 14 March last year.

In the first incident, a piece of tubing weighing 1.5kg dropped over six metres landing ‘just centimetres in front’ of a female pedestrian in Castle Street, Crown Advocate Yates told the court.

A member of the public reported it to Health and Safety that day saying the woman was ‘very shocked and on the verge of tears’.

The following morning inspectors visited the site and K-Lok employees admitted that a piece of scaffolding had been dropped.

‘The inspector discussed safe systems of work with the employees, including working during quieter periods and the closure of the pavement in Castle Street,’ Advocate Yates said.

The inspector asked whether K-Lok planned to put a ‘protection fan’ in place, a structure intended to provide protection from falling debris.

But later the same day, Health and Safety were informed by another member of the public that a tool had fallen and landed ‘within ten feet of them’ as they turned the corner from Commercial Street into Castle Street.

When the inspector again visited the site, he was told ‘none of the employees were aware of any falling material’ and that the protection fan had been put in place earlier in the day.

‘The pavement had been closed using a tape stretched between the scaffold, with a cone at both ends and an employee directing pedestrians,’ Advocate Yates said.

After a third incident was reported on 15 March, a stop order was placed on the site, although after looking into the third report, it was determined there were no failings on the part of K-Lok.

K-Lok was later allowed to return to work on the site to complete the project after a street inspector stipulated ‘all work had to occur outside peak hours so there was less pedestrian activity’.

When the first two incidents were investigated, however, it was found that one of the K-Lok employees had dropped a spanner on 14 March and lied to the inspector.

‘As I leant through the handrail, my spanner came out of my belt and went straight down to the floor,’ Advocate Yates read from the employee’s statement.

‘I didn’t say because I have been scaffolding for 32 years and I have never had one incident so I wanted to keep my record clean.’

Advocate Yates suggested the safety breaches warranted a fine of £35,000 and an additional £3,000 in prosecution costs.

K-Lok owner and director Dale Campbell appeared before Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith with Advocate Olaf Blakeley, defending.

Advocate Blakeley said the company had taken the incidents very seriously but argued a fine of £20,000 would be more appropriate.

In handing down the decision of Jurats Robert Christensen and Collette Crill, Commissioner Clyde-Smith noted the area where the incidents occurred was a ‘very busy pedestrian thoroughfare’.

The breaches could have ‘caused fatal injury,’ he added. ‘It was just luck no pedestrian was struck.’

The company was fined £30,000 and given 12 months to pay. K-Lok must also pay legal costs of £3,000.

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