The work was being carried out at the former Riverside Centre in Braintree, Essex. On 1st July 2014 the scaffold, which was 40-metres long and five lifts high, collapsed into the River Brain. Workers had to leap for safety through window openings to avoid falling with it.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and brought charges against principal contractor Parkland Developments Ltd, scaffolding contractor SC Cousins Scaffolding Ltd and CDM co-ordinator Haze & Safety Ltd.
Chelmsford magistrates heard that failings on site included:
- The CDM co-ordinator had failed to provide suitable advice to its client, Parkland Developments, or ensure that the arrangements were being implemented on site.
- Principal contractor Parkland Developments failed to implement the construction phase plan or ensure that they planned and managed or monitored the scaffolding works.
- The scaffolding contractor failed to plan the work or design the scaffold. It also failed to send trained and competent workers to site. In the weeks prior to the collapse, a scaffolding labourer was acting as the supervisor and overseeing trainee scaffolders in erecting, altering and inspecting the scaffold.
- No one realised there was no design for the scaffold.
Following the collapse, the HSE served a prohibition notice, stopping all further work until an adequate design had been drawn up. But SC Cousins continued to send untrained scaffolders to site and Parkland Developments allowed them to modify the scaffold. Parkland also continued to allow site labourers to adapt scaffolding, even providing the tools to do so.
Magistrates were also told that Parkland Developments had received a visit from the HSE at the same site several months prior to the collapse, when five enforcement notices were issued for other management failings. A notification of contravention was also issued at this time on CDM co-ordinator Haze & Safety Ltd for failing to provide suitable and sufficient advice to the client.
SC Cousins Scaffolding had also been inspected by the HSE at a different site five weeks before the collapse and had been informed of the design requirements for scaffolding.
Parkland Developments Ltd of Witham Road, Black Notley pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 22(1)(a) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,893.
SC Cousins Scaffolding Ltd of Church St, Billericay pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 4(1)(a), 5 and 8(b) of the Work at Height Regulations. It was fined a total of £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,981.
Haze & Safety Ltd of Meadowside, Braintree pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations Regulation 20(1)(a) & (b) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. It was fined a total of £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,981.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Adam Hills said: “This collapse was entirely preventable and it is only by chance that multiple fatalities did not occur. It beggars belief that following the collapse, no lessons were learnt and untrained people were still allowed to adapt the scaffold.”