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Scaffolding Accident Injuries, Compensation & Claims

Scaffolding work carries a very high risk of injury, which is why there are strict legal regulations on how scaffolding work should be planned, carried out and supervised. Only experienced and qualified scaffolders should erect and dismantle scaffolding and only they should be working on roofs and at heights. However, this industry is characterised by a large number of small private companies, often using unskilled or inadequately trained workers to carry out often complex and dangerous work.

We deal with many claims where workers fall from scaffolding because mistakes were made by others. For instance, a scaffold was put up but some of the walkway boards were not properly braced, or another tradesman removed a pole and bracket to gain access to part of a building or the scaffold dismantling work was not properly planned, so that an unsafe walkway was not closed off.

Common injuries

The most common type of accidents in the scaffolding industry are falls from height and falling objects. Falls from heights are particularly serious because of the severe injuries that often result. Occasionally fatal injuriesare sustained and sometimes serious spinal injuries; severe orthopaedic injuries are common.

Duty of care

Most scaffolding accident claims are successful because the law allows a claim to be made against any person or party responsible for the scaffolding, if some fault can be shown. So it might be that the main site contractor failed to check the scaffolding for safety during the dismantling process, or a colleague made an error in putting up a part of the scaffolding, or there was a design fault with the structure.

Workers are also owed special safety duties by their employers, especially in terms of equipment and training, so if for instance hard hats and safety harnesses are not provided then the employee will be able to claim against the employer if an accident results from that breach of duty.

Training can be general and specific, so if a scaffolder does not have the proper training, such as under the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme, then he should not be working on scaffolding at all. We often have cases of scaffolder’s labourers carrying out the job of a trained scaffolder, and unsurprisingly they are more likely to be involved in accidents, often serious ones. There will also be particular requirements of any job that should be identified in the risk assessment, and the scaffolders and their labourers should be trained and instructed properly.

Scaffold accidents investigations are often thorough, involving the main site contractor, and sometimes the Health and Safety Executive will get involved and may prosecute those responsible. We are entitled to see the documentation surrounding the job and the accident and its investigation, and to carry out our own enquiries, to get to the bottom of who caused the accident.

Case study

1. Mr T was a Somali national with refugee status in the UK which allowed him to work. He worked for a scaffolding firm as a labourer, although he had received some limited scaffolding training on the job and had been promised that he would soon be sent on the training courses necessary to work as a qualified scaffolder.

He was working on a job at a construction site in South London; he was effectively doing the job of a scaffolder, under supervision by his foreman. The job involved the demolition of an old school, and towards the end of that job the scaffolding had to be dismantled.

That dismantling work was carried out in part the previous night and was not checked by a foreman or qualified scaffolder, so when in the morning Mr T climbed the scaffold to continue work, there was a walkway two storeys up that was defective. Some of the planks were not properly supported from below. As a result Mr T fell through the scaffold to the ground level.

Investigations revealed that a colleague had made a mistake in removing load bearing scaffold poles before the walkway had been dismantled. His supervisor also failed to check the walkway and so did the main site contractor.

There was a delay in supplying the necessary documents to us so we issued court proceedings against the scaffold company and the main site contractor.

Mr T sustained fractures to the vertebrae in his lower back. He recovered and was able to work, but not in physical manual work and so he could not go back to his old job. He had to retrain and he took up less well paid driving work.

Liability was admitted by the defendants and the case was settled at a pre-trial meeting. Mr T was paid compensation for the pain and suffering caused by his injuries and for the past loss of earnings whilst he was unable to work, and for the future losses from being paid less than he was earning (and would have earned on promotion) as a scaffolder. He received £100,000 in compensation.

2. Mr S was a scaffolder. He was working on site, dismantling a scaffold with some colleagues. He had just climbed down off the scaffold to the ground level whilst above him one colleague was passing an 8 metre pole by hand from the second level to another colleague at the first level. The colleague at the lower failed to grasp the pole properly and it slipped through his hands, falling straight down to the ground below.

Fortunately the pole did not land on Mr S – that would probably have killed him. But it bounced and caught him in the face. He required an operation to fix the fracture to the cheek and eye socket that it caused. He was left with a visible and permanent scar and a palpable plate beneath it.

Mr S’s employers accepted liability for the negligence of their employee and agreed to settle the claim for about £13,000.

If you work or worked as a scaffolder and experienced an injury due to an accident at work, contact our specialist team of lawyers who can advise you on whether or not you are eligible to make a claim for accident compensation.

Written by Stuart Kightley

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