Contractor in court after shopper hit by falling hoardings

28 May 2014

A building contractor who was refurbishing a city centre site failed to implement safety controls that resulted in a section of perimeter fencing collapsing under a gust of wind and landing on a pedestrian. The individual was knocked unconscious, suffered severe concussion, a gash on the head along with fluid and bruising on the brain.

The building contractor used solid fencing to prevent dust and debris being released from the site into the public realm. Concrete foundations were not used to secure the fence, the reason being that disruption to underground services would be required and there was a need to move the fence for deliveries.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation revealed there had been a similar incident on the site only a few weeks prior to the accident, although no persons had been injured. Following the near miss, the building contractor only arranged repairs to the damaged sections of fencing.

The HSE said “the company failed to recognise the potential vulnerability of the whole perimeter fence”. The works were carried out by inexperienced workers with no advice being sought from specialist advisors.

The HSE added “the project, given it was in a busy pedestrianised town centre, should have been subject to a thorough risk assessment,and a competent design to ensure it did not collapse as the results could have been ‘forseeably catastrophic’”.

The company pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,250. Speaking after the hearing, an HSE inspector said:

“[the company] had a duty to its workforce and to members of the public to ensure the hoarding around the site was safe. This fencing was constructed using guesswork. The company failed to seek expert advice in order to ensure the hoarding was designed correctly and did not consider the substantial force which strong wind can impart on solid hoardings.”

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