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Last updated: 27.07.17

Health & Safety: Scaffolding tragedy highlights need for robust procedures

A construction worker has been seriously harmed after a crane dropped 500 scaffold fittings on her. Incidents like this show the importance of having robust health and safety procedures.

Did you know that construction workers are most at risk of death than any other type of worker in the UK? Every day, construction employees put their lives at risk to do something they love to help build a bigger, better and more efficient world for us all.

According to AOL, the deadliest jobs in the country are in construction and last year 43 builders died in workplace accidents. When it comes to workplace injury, it was revealed that in 2016, there were a staggering 5,245 injuries on construction sites overall. Perhaps surprisingly, age also had something to do with the number of injuries on site, with those aged 45-54 facing the highest risk of death.

Unlike other sectors - retail or finance, for example - construction is inherently more dangerous as it has a number of risk factors. Nevertheless, even though construction carries with it a greater chance of injury, there are still steps that can be taken to reduce the chances of accidents happening. Given the high risk factor that comes with construction, if anything, health and safety procedures and training should be more prominent and strictly enforced.

Case study

In July, two UK construction companies were fined after a 44-year-old woman was struck by falling scaffolding. According to Construction Enquirer, a mobile crane was being used when the attachment holding 500 scaffolding fittings, weighing 2kg each, was turned sideways. All of the fittings were then dropped onto workers 10.5 meters below.

The employee the scaffolding fell on suffered two fractures to her left shoulder blade, a fracture to her collar bone, a cut to the back of her head and bruising. Following this, an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the stillage attachment used on the crane was not suitable for lifting heavy or large items. Lifting scaffolding when workers were directly below the crane also put them at great risk.

Along with a number of other failures, the construction company responsible for the accident pleaded guilty to breaching CDM Regulations 2015 and was fined £145,000, as well as being ordered to pay costs of £3,500.

HSE inspector Nicole Buchanan commented: “The worker is very lucky that her injuries were not life threatening. A number of workers were at risk of harm when they failed to plan or identify the risks of heavy lifting.

“This case highlights the need for duty holders to properly plan all lifting operations before work is carried out to manage the risk of injury to workers. Lifting directly above workers is inherently unsafe and should be avoided wherever possible”

A need for robust Health & Safety procedures

While in this case, no worker was killed, they very easily could have been, which highlights the crucial need for robust health and safety procedure to be carried out within government and industry guidelines. The cost of failing to comply with health and safety procedures could have serious consequences.

For both employers and employees, health and safety must be front of mind at all times. The majority of accidents in construction can be avoided by implementing the correct health and safety protocols and by ensuring they are constantly maintained. Cutting corners when it comes to health and safety in construction simply leads to accidents and death.

Training construction staff in health and safety will ensure they are aware of procedures and will help make your workforce safe. At Virtual College we work with construction industry experts, including the NICEIC, to offer everything from bite-size training courses to full qualifications, such as 17th Edition. Learn more today.


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