The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Erecting Scaffolds in Public Places

Graham Marshall - Thursday, February 14, 2013

Scaffolding will frequently be erected in public places; for example alongside buildings on busy public high streets.

In such circumstances; where members of the public will be walking, driving or working in close proximity to erected scaffolds, it is vital that professional and safe standards are applied.

The need for such standards was highlighted recently when a self-employed scaffolder was fined after a member of the public suffered head injuries after walking into an unguarded scaffolding pole on a busy public pavement.

Rothesay Sheriff Court heard that Thomas Hannen was contracted by Argyll and Bute Council in January 2011 to erect scaffolding around the disused Royal Hotel on Rothesay seafront, on the Isle of Bute.

Members of the public were not excluded, or in any way actively discouraged, from using the pavement beneath the work area.

Furthermore, no padding or warning tape was wrapped around teh scaffolding to soften any inadvertent contact, make it easily visible or to alert members of the public to its presence.

As a result, a 61-year-old local woman walking underneath the scaffolding, hit her head on the horizontal pole and fractured her left ankle when she fell to the ground.

An investigation  by the UK HSE found that Thomas Hannen failed to:

Have the footpath where he was working temporarily closed;

Failed to complete a risk assessment and did not guard against risk to pedestrians;

Erect a scaffold on a pavement without any diversion in place to exclude members of the public from the work area;

Failed to display any warning signs alerting the public that it was dangerous to be in the work area;

Failed to attach padding or tape around the scaffolding under erection.

These are all serious breaches of Section 3(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which states:

"It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety".

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