A house building company has been fined and a site manager sentenced to community service after a self-employed bricklayer fell to his death from dangerous scaffolding. Justin Gillman, 26, of Holland Fen near Boston, Lincolnshire, died when he fell backwards almost two metres while working on a residential building site in Skegness on 26 February, 2010. Chestnut Homes Ltd and their site manager, Peter Tute, were sentenced at Lincoln Crown Court today.
An HSE investigation discovered serious safety failings which included allowing untrained people to build scaffolding, failing to check it was safe for use and for failing to ensure the safety of workers once it was in use.
The court heard that Gillman and a colleague were told by Tute to extend some scaffolding around the walls of a block of three terraced houses being built. Neither were qualified or had any experience of erecting scaffolding, and as the site manager Tute should not have entrusted them with the task.
HSE inspectors established that Tute did not provide Gillman or his colleague with any instructions in how to build the scaffolding and left them to improvise and get on with it. They built a scaffolding platform that had no guard and the structure was a different height to existing scaffolding on the rest of the plots.
According to the Scaffold Inspection Record for the site, the whole scaffold was inspected on the day of the tragedy and was adjudged as being safe by Tute. On the day of the fatal fall, the weather was too poor for bricklaying so Gillman and his colleague decided to load out the scaffolding with bricks for work the following Monday.
Having loaded out two sides of the scaffolding, Gillman loaded a further band of 80 bricks on a trolley and pulled it backwards, past some guard rails that were raised out of the way, and up a makeshift ramp onto the scaffolding. Gillman fell backwards from the end of the unsafe scaffold where there was no guard rail to prevent him falling. The band of bricks he was pulling landed on him, and he died at the scene of his injuries. Chestnut Homes Ltd of Langworth, Lincoln were fined £40,000 after pleading guilty a safety breach. Peter Tute, 50, of Lincoln, was ordered to carry out 240 hours community service after pleading guilty. The court will determine the amount of costs to be paid at a later date.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Principal Inspector Richard Lockwood said: “Before entrusting tasks to workers, principal contractors and site managers must ensure they are competent to do the task being given to them. “There needs to be adequate control over scaffolding to ensure that it is and remains safe and fit for the purpose.
Justin’s father, Alan Gillman, added: “Justin was a very hardworking chap who enjoyed working in construction. “He was building his own home for him and his girlfriend and he loved stock car racing. He’d been into racing cars since he was about eight-years-old. “He generally enjoyed life and never had a bad word to say about anyone. “If something positive can come from this case, and Justin’s death, it’s that I just hope people will be prepared to say ‘no’ to their employer if they’re asked to do something they’re not trained to do, or it wouldn’t be safe for them to do.”