Construction Industry: Remember Scaffolding Controls

Employers in the construction sector need to ensure that when work from heights is being undertaken, the proper fall protection and control measures are implemented to avoid workers plummeting to their deaths.

Although the incident occurred in another country, England, the principles it highlights are universal, especially considering that falls from heights are the leading cause of fatal injuries in the construction sector in both The UK and Australia.

The deceased man was involved in the erection and dismantling of scaffolding and inadvertently stepped onto a skylight. The skylight subsequently broke under his weight and caused him to fall 13 metres to the ground below. The worker was rushed to the hospital however he died on arrival. The company failed to provide workers with a safe work environment and safe system of work by not arranging for load bearing covers to be put over the skylights to avoid incidents such as this, therefore failing in their responsibilities.

This excerpt from explains what happened on that unfortunate day:

fragiledeathscaffolder2S&S Scaffolding Ltd has been ordered to pay more than £100,000 in fines and costs following the death of a workman who fell 13m through the roof of a Merseyside warehouse in December 2010. Tony Causby, 42, was helping to dismantle scaffolding when he stepped onto a fragile rooflight and fell to the floor below.

Liverpool Crown Court heard Mr Causby was involved in erecting the scaffolding at the end of October ahead of work to replace damaged cladding and guttering on the roof. He returned to the site on 14 December as part of the dismantling team, although he was employed by S&S Scaffolding as a labourer rather than a scaffolder.

Mr Causby returned to the roof with another labourer after a lunch break when he stepped on the skylight, which broke and gave way. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The court was heard there were some 80 fragile skylights on one half of the roof. However, the company failed to arrange for load bearing covers to be put over skylights nearest to where persons were working.


Investigations found that the company involved were fully aware of the dangers yet failed to guard against them.

The employer’s neglect of safety directly resulted in the death of the worker because they failed to protect him from the risks associated with working from heights, despite this being such a problematic issue to the industry.

Investigators reiterated that it would have been relatively easy to cover the fragile skylights near to where the employees were working to prevent anyone from falling through if they accidentally stepped on one. This is a hazard that should have been identified quite easily and controlled equally as easily.

The company could have even placed netting or crash nets under the skylights to reduce the likelihood of an injury if workers fell.

Other employers should look at this incident as an example of what to avoid when scaffolding work and work from heights is being undertaken in order to avoid a similar outcome.



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