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Scaffolding firm in court for department store failings

Photo is an extract from the CCTV footage showing the unsafe scaffolding work

A Hertfordshire scaffolding firm has been fined for a catalogue of safety failings – including throwing and catching metal fittings over the heads of shoppers – as they erected two scaffolds outside an Oxford department store.

Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited also failed to ensure the structures outside Debenhams on George Street and Magdalen Street were properly configured, braced and tied, which undermined their stability.

The Cheshunt-based company was prosecuted on 17 March by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation uncovered a series of issues.

The issues included:

  • Metal fittings were thrown from a flatbed lorry over the heads of passers-by – as captured by CCTV
  • Heavy scaffold poles were also hoisted above shoppers with no thought to their safety
  • Pedestrians were forced to walk into the road to avoid the activity, with no measures in place to protect them from passing vehicles
  • The two scaffolds were not built to an approved safe design and were inadequately braced and tied
  • They were also poorly configured, with the potential for overloading parts of the structure, and loads could not be transferred safely to the ground

The scaffolds were erected on the morning of Sunday 30 September 2012 when there was significant footfall in the area.

Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that although nobody was injured, either from the work or from a collapse or fall, the activity was inherently unsafe.

HSE established that as a result of the failings there was a significant risk that the scaffold could have collapsed.

Darren Baker Scaffolding Limited, of Turners Hill, Cheshunt, Herts, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay a further £760 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and four breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.


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