Falsely Completed Scaffold Reports

Two scaffolding inspectors who falsified examination certificates have been prosecuted after a roofer fell through a gap between a scaffolding and the building he was working on.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard on 21 September that Stephen Harper and Garry Arnold did not inspect the scaffolding, but produced examination certifications to show that they had.

HSE guidance says that scaffold users or hirers need to arrange for scaffolding to be inspected by a competent person before it is used for the first time, and subsequently at an interval of no more than every seven days.  Training for the role is usually carried out with the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS).

On 26 March 2014, a 49 year old man was working on a re-roofing project. As he stepped down from the untiled roof onto the fixed scaffold, he fell through a gap between the scaffolding’s working platform and the building.  He sustained fracture injuries to his spine and had to wear a back brace for eight weeks.

Harper, of Middleton in Rochdale, and Arnold, of Crookes in Sheffield, both pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

They were both sentenced to 170 hours of community service and ordered to pay £1500 costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Matt Greenly said: “Scaffold inspectors are relied upon by workers and must be trusted. Falsely completing reports without carrying out a thorough inspection can lead to serious risks being missed and life changing accidents occurring.”

Epica Health & Safety Director, Elizabeth Sinclair says, “The service gap between the scaffold and elevation should be kept to a minimum so that no person or object can fall through.  Generally the industry tends to work on the basis that if a scaffold board can fit into the gap, 225 mm, then it should be fitted. If the service gap is less that 225 mm then internal guard rails are not required, unless there are door or window openings into the building where an operative could fall.

“This however this doesn’t work for all trades, for example renderers require space for hand and trowel.  In these cases the scaffold service gap can be further away however full edge protection is required.  Depending on the type of build a single handrail may be required however this should work alongside a safe system of work that includes for supervision, training and instruction.

“Formal handover and inspections carried out by the competent inspector are of paramount importance.  These documents are evidence that that scaffold has been inspected and made safe, where necessary, for continual use.  These gentlemen put their colleagues and other persons at risk and a terrible incident occurred.”

In a separate development, the Unite union has warned that a proposed new scaffolding “skills card” scheme will decrease standards and lead to scaffolders having different cards for different projects.