UK Health and Safety Warning About Temporary Structures

The collapse of a rebar structure as a result of inadequate temporary works support has resulted in a warning being issued by the British Health and Safety Executive.

The company responsible, Costain Ltd and Bell Formwork Services Ltd were prosecuted after a rebar structure collapsed on a Birmingham project in November 2012. This collapse caused 2 workers to fall from a scissor lift during the construction of a concrete tank at a new pumping stating and water treatment facility.

The case appeared before the Birmingham Magistrates who heard that 2 steel fixers were working at 5 metres above ground in separate scissor-lifts when reinforcing bar structure collapsed knocking over both scissor lifts with the operators still inside.

One worker remained in the platform when it landed and crashed into a nearby support frame, reports claimed. The man suffered bruising as well as pain to his leg and shoulder.

The other worker was propelled from the platform and suffered bruises to his head, legs and body. Three workers were working below the structure and managed to take cover before being injured.

Following an investigation, it was discovered that the steel reinforcement was unstable because of its size, slenderness of the steel and the weight of the steel at a high level. Authorities said that temporary support should have been in place every 7 metres but only 2 support frames were used at 8.3m spacing leaving an 8m section unsupported.

The principal contractor Costain Limited failed to plan, manage or monitor the work properly even though the risk was evident and the need for temporary support was obvious.

Temporary supports should be given equal attention as permanent reports, as this excerpt from an article on goes on to explain:

The Principal Contractor failed to apply their own temporary works management arrangements which would have included a series of checks. There was “no managerial level supervision or monitoring during these early stages of the work”.


The company pleaded guilty to the breaches and was ordered to pay fines of £15,000 as well as costs of £1,980.

Similar incidents have taken place on numerous occasions here in Australia, even over the last few years. Speaking after the hearing, the health and safety executive inspector Luke Messenger explained:

 “This was a serious incident and considering the size and weight of the wall, and the height from which the scissor-lifts overturned, it is extremely fortunate that no serious or even fatal injuries occurred.

Construction and related companies need to ensure that the same degree of care and attention is given to the design and construction of temporary structures as it is to the design and construction of permanent works. Everything must be properly planned so it can be carried out safely by their staff.

Both companies were experienced in their industry and should have done better.”



Posted by Construction Safety News Admin
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