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£200k fines for dodgy scaffold

10 Jul 13 A scaffolding firm and its client have been fined more than £200,000 for safety failings at a factory in Ledbury.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) identified concerns following an incident involving a scaffold at Universal Beverages Ltd’s premises on Little Marcle Road on 1 October 2009.

Central Roofing & Building Services Ltd, trading as Erect-A-Scaffold, was appointed by Universal Beverages to erect and maintain scaffolding at the site.

Worcester Crown Court heard during a week-long trial (1-8 July) that there were "significant" issues with the scaffolding, including loose boards and big gaps.

HSE found the company failed to perform adequate and regular safety inspections and maintenance of the scaffold.

It is a legal requirement for a scaffold over two meters high to be inspected every seven days to ensure it is safe to use, and for any defects to be immediately rectified. However, Central Roofing & Building Services did not inspect the scaffold frequently enough and, on more than one occasion, sent an inexperienced and unqualified employee to carry out the inspection.

Universal Beverages, meanwhile, failed to ensure the subcontractor it appointed fulfilled its obligation in this regard. In doing so, it failed to ensure the safety of non-employees.

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Universal Beverages Ltd, registered to Bridge Street, Staines, Middlesex, was fined a total of £85,000 and ordered to pay £50,000 costs, after being found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Central Roofing and Building Services Ltd, trading as Erect-A-Scaffold, of Central Park, Holmer Road, Hereford, was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £18,000 costs after pleading guilty to the same breach.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Humphries said: "As the principal contractor on this building project, Universal Beverages was responsible for ensuring that the scaffolding was checked every seven days to ensure it was safe and that workers were not exposed to risk.

"As the subcontractor on the site, Central Roofing Services was responsible for ensuring that the inspection was carried out weekly by a competent person, which they failed to do.

"Companies working on construction projects have a duty to monitor the practices of the subcontractors they engage, while subcontractors need to ensure their employees are competent to undertake the work they have been engaged to do."

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