A Kent scaffolding company has been fined and its director given a suspended prison sentence after a scaffolder suffered an 11,000-volt electric shock.
Steven Gilmore, 36, was working for contractor Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd alongside a small team of scaffolders, to erect a temporary roof scaffold at an open-air drinks depot in Snow Hill, Crawley, West Sussex.
Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd had been contracted by Drinks Warehouse UK Ltd to erect the temporary roof structure over its open-air depot in Snow Hill to provide shelter for operations during the winter months.
On 29th November 2021 Steven Gilmore struck a live 11kV power line running across the site while lifting a six-metre scaffold tube. He then fell more than five metres to the ground, breaking a leg as well as sustaining life-changing electrical burns to both hands, of which he is not expected to regain full use.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd and its director Ian Pepper had failed to ensure the high-risk temporary roof scaffold assembly job near a high voltage line was properly risk assessed.
The investigation also highlighted that, despite being fully aware of how close the temporary roof scaffold was being built to the live power cable, no attempt was made by to consult network operator UK Power Networks about line voltage and safe clearance distances.
While directing the scaffold assembly works on site himself, Pepper allowed his team of scaffolders to use six-metre metal scaffold tubes at near vertical angles within striking distance of the high voltage line without any precautions to prevent injury.
Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd and its director Ian Pepper, aged 48, of Hoath, both pleaded guilty at Brighton Magistrates’ Court in September to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Sentencing was adjourned to 15th January 2024.
The company was fined £50,000. Pepper was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.
HSE Inspector Susie Beckett said after the sentencing hearing: “This scaffolder’s injuries were life-changing and could have been fatal.
“This incident could have been avoided if this high-risk scaffold job had been properly planned, including seeking free advice from the Network Operator on what precautions to take, and then implementing those well-established precautions to prevent accidental contact with the overhead line.”