Seventy metres of sheeted scaffold peeled away from a row of houses in Wellington Road, Hanley, on 30 April 2011.
Investigations swiftly revealed that the structure was not designed to be covered in sheeting and withstand wind loads.
Fortunately workers were on a break so no-one was on or near the scaffolding at the time of the collapse. No members of the public were walking past and no vehicles were driving by, although a row of parked cars received minor damage and a street lamp was destroyed.
Potteries Demolition Company Ltd was the principal contractor on the Stoke City Council scheme to demolish 15 terraced houses and the former Highland Laddie pub on one side of Wellington Road. The firm appointed Jacko’s Scaffolding Ltd to provide scaffolding.
A Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found the scaffold had not been built to an appropriate bespoke design and was not sufficiently secured to the houses. In addition it was a particularly windy day with the Met Office recording gusts of up to 46mph in the area, which put extra pressure on the sheeted scaffold.
Stafford magistrates were told that the original scaffold provided by Jacko’s was a basic scaffold provided for roof tile removal and as such it did not require a bespoke design. However the next stage in the demolition sequence required the scaffold to be altered and sheeting added, as it was to be used as a work platform to facilitate hand demolition of the front upper walls of the buildings. This meant that the scaffold needed to be a bespoke design as it could become vulnerable to collapse as the buildings to which it was tied were demolished.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Bowker said: "It was sheer good luck that no-one was hurt when the scaffold collapsed. If anyone had been on it or nearby, it would have been a very different story.
"This incident was caused by a catalogue of serious failings by both companies.
The failure to construct the scaffold to a suitable design for the work meant that the scaffold ultimately could not withstand the effects of wind loading as the buildings upper walls were demolished and first floor anchor ties were removed.
"Potteries Demolition, the principal contractor, failed to effectively co-ordinate, plan and manage the demolition sequence in order to ensure that the scaffold safety was not compromised. They failed to ensure that the sheeted scaffold was constructed to a suitable bespoke design despite knowing that this was necessary. They failed to inspect the scaffold and removed anchor ties during the demolition sequence ignoring written instructions on the scaffold handover certificate not to do so.
“Jacko’s Scaffolding failed to construct the scaffold to a suitable design despite knowing that this was necessary. They failed to inform Potteries Demolition that the sheeted scaffold they handed over was not adequately tied for the façade demolition to start.”
Both companies also failed to ensure that the anchor ties that were fitted were suitably tested.
Jacko’s Scaffolding Ltd, of Winghouse Lane, Tittensor, Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Today, Stafford Magistrates’ Court fined the firm £5,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £2,992.
Potteries Demolition Company Ltd, of Burnham Street, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the same Act. The company was fined a total of £13,320 with costs of £11,967.