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Health and safety prosecutions round-up

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This following three cases all resulted in life-changing or otherwise serious injuries. All provide a valuable opportunity to learn from the mistakes made.

Life changing injury to member of the public hit by timber site hoarding

In the second similar case in the space of a year, a contractor has pleaded guilty and been fined £30,250 (including costs) after a section of timber site hoarding was blown over, hitting a member of the public and causing life changing injuries. As with the earlier case there was no proper design for the hoarding, so it was erected "using guesswork", there was no appreciation of the wind load to a solid wooden hoarding, and no inspection regime in place to ensure it was safe.

As with all temporary works on site (any structure erected to enable or support the building process) they must be planned, designed and managed to ensure they are safe to use and do not create a risk to those on, and off, the site.

Excavation collapse causes serious injuries to a worker on site

A developer in Poole has been prosecuted after a collapse in an excavation buried a worker between the face of the excavation and formwork installed for the construction of a basement retaining wall. The worker suffered multiple fractures and a collapsed lung when the wall of the 3m deep excavation failed without warning. Despite a risk assessment stating the excavation would be battered back or supported neither was in place resulting in what could have easily been a fatal accident.

All excavations need adequate support or battering to prevent collapse and a visual inspection is not sufficient to determine whether the face of an excavation is stable.

Plasterer seriously injured when temporary handrail on a landing gave way

A major house builder has been fined £10,000 after a plasterer was seriously injured when the temporary handrail on a landing gave way. The plasterer fell 2.6m after leaning on the temporary handrail sustaining multiple fractures and soft tissue damage. The HSE investigation found that the temporary handrail was a single piece of timber fixed to the protective cover of an upright post at one side and nailed with one nail into a timber door frame at the other side, which was where it gave way. There was no mid-rail to provide additional support.

The lack of adequate stairwell protection is one of the most common serious observations made on site and hopefully this unfortunate incident will serve as a timely reminder of the importance of ensuring this issue is properly managed.