A scaffolding company has been fined £30k after a metal bar and a work tool fell more than six metres from scaffolding in town - nearly hitting members of the public both times.
Dale Campbell, Director of K-LOK Scaffolding Ltd, appeared in the Royal Court to be sentenced for the Health and Safety infraction after a 1.5kg metal bar and a ratchet fell from his company’s scaffold in Castle Street, narrowly missing pedestrians on the pavement below by just centimetres.
Crown Advocate Conrad Yates, appearing for the prosecution, took the Court through the facts of the case.
The Court heard that K-LOK was subcontracted by a local contractor who was redecorating the exterior of Standard Chartered Bank on Castle Street to put scaffolding up around the building in February of last year.
Pictured: K-LOK were subcontracted to construct scaffolding outside Standard Chartered Bank in Castle Street.
The Crown Advocate told the Court that the first incident of heavy objects falling from the scaffolding occurred on 13 March 2018. The Health and Safety Inspectorate was alerted to the incident when a pedestrian rang them up, saying “that a piece of scaffolding had dropped just centimetres in front of their eyes onto the pavement of Castle Street".
“It was established that the [metal bar] had fallen after the employee holding [it] had been knocked with a diagonal bracing, causing him to lose his grip,” Crown Advocate Yates explained.
The incident prompted a Health and Safety Inspector to attend the site the next day to discuss “safe systems of work” with the K-LOK employees, “including working during quieter periods and closure of the pavement on Castle Street.” The Inspector also recommended the construction of a “protection fan” – a structure made from boards and netting that prevents loose objects or debris falling onto the street below.
Pictured: A piece of scaffolding similar to the one which fell "centimetres" in front of a pedestrian in town.
Later that day, however, the Health and Safety Inspectorate received another complaint from a member of public that “a tool had landed on the pavement ‘within ten feet’ of them”, having fallen from the same K-LOK scaffolding.
The employee whose tool it was initially denied that the ratchet had fallen, but later admitted that it had, explaining: “I didn’t say because I’ve been in scaffolding for 32 years and I’ve never had one incident, so I wanted to keep a clean record."
Addressing Royal Court Commissioner and Jurats Ronge and Christensen, Crown Advocate Yates said that K-LOK “fell substantially short” of the Health and Safety requirements in what he described as “a serious breach of the law".
In response, Defence Advocate Olaf Blakeley disagreed with this estimation of his client’s conduct. “It cannot be said that there was ‘high culpability’ or that K-LOK ‘fell substantially short’,” he told the Court.
Advocate Blakeley argued that although the measures put in place were “inadequate”, he said “measures were put in place nonetheless".
Elsewhere in his submissions, the Defence Advocate also told the Court that “the Director of the company is really sorry this has happened". "This has shocked him… He takes this very seriously indeed,” the Advocate said before making the case that the Crown’s recommendation was “erring on the high side” and inviting the Court to impose a fine of £20,000 instead.
Pictured: The company received a substantial fine for the Health and Safety breach.
Ultimately, the Jurats agreed with the Crown and fined the company £30,000 as well as ordering them to pay £3,000 in contribution to prosecution costs.
Handing down the judgment, the Commissioner acknowledged the Director’s remorse and that the company “has a good safety record” previously.
However, he went onto say that falling objects like these on “one of the busiest streets in St. Helier during work hours… could cause serious if not fatal injury".
“It was just luck that no pedestrian was struck,” Commissioner Clyde-Smith warned before imposing the fine.
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