£40,000 fine for safety breaches

THE former boss of a building firm which erected unsafe scaffolding and left its workers at risk of falling eight metres has been fined £40,000.

The Royal Court building (31733238)
The Royal Court building (31733238)

The Royal Court heard yesterday that Timothy Bidmead (60), former managing director of Bidmead Building Contractors, had broken two health and safety rules when his firm carried out work on a house in Duhamel Street in St Helier last November.

Crown Advocate Lauren Hallam, prosecuting, said that the company was repairing the roof on the property but the scaffolding tower had not been built according to safety instructions, and protections to safeguard workers from the eight-metre drop were inadequate.

This led a concerned member of the public to contact the Health and Safety Inspectorate. Health and safety inspector Michael Cayless said: ‘The first thing I observed was that some of Mr Bidmead’s employees were accessing the tower by climbing up the outside, which is very much a poor procedure. In some circumstances it could cause a scaffolding tower to topple over.’

Ladders were not positioned to allow for easy access between one level and another, he said, adding: ‘The highest level had the greatest risk of falling.’

Edge protections such as rails are supposed to be installed at sites where workers are at great heights, but Mr Cayless said: ‘The rail was ineffective. It fell way below what you would expect of edge protection. It wouldn’t have stopped anybody.’

Three employees who gave statements said that they had never seen a risk assessment.

Advocate Hallam said that the ‘defendant sold the company for £600,000 in the knowledge that it was being investigated’ but, she added, Bidmead was culpable, as he had been managing director at the time of the breaches. She suggested a £40,000 fine for each breach and £5,000 in costs.

Advocate Estelle Burns, defending, said: ‘It is of note that nobody suffered injury as a result of this incident.’

She pointed out that Bidmead had already been in the process of selling the company before the offences took place, saying: ‘The sale was put in motion in September, two months before the infractions.’

She added: ‘Mr Bidmead fully accepts that this is a serious case and he is genuinely remorseful.’

Bidmead has stayed on as an employee of the firm, and Advocate Burns said: ‘He now routinely inspects scaffolding and edge protection meticulously.’

She asked for a lower fine than that requested by the prosecution, saying: ‘He is not a wealthy man.’

Jurats Steven Austin-Vautier and Paul Nicolle decided to impose fines of £20,000 for each offence and £5,000 in costs – a total penalty of £45,000.

Delivering the verdict, Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae said they were giving him credit for his guilty plea but added: ‘This was a serious breach.’

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