Working at height is dangerous, there’s no two ways about that. That’s why there are a number of rules and regulations set out to keep scaffolders safe on the job. Unfortunately, despite the dangers it creates, there are still individuals out there who are willing to cut corners and ignore the very rules set out to protect them.
In most cases, where industry rules and regulations have been broken, the company employing the individual(s) are at fault. Scaffolding firms must take all reasonable steps to ensure their employees are properly trained, fully qualified for the tasks they’re undertaking, and have the correct equipment to adhere to work safely at height.
However, that isn’t always the case; as demonstrated by a case in Manchester, where a 28-year-old scaffolder was individually prosecuted after being found guilty of working at height without sufficient safety measures in place!
CISRS, the Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme, has been the industry-recognised scaffold training scheme for over four decades. During this time they have created a way of standardising the levels of competence in scaffolders in the form of CISRS Cards.
Upon successful completion of the CISRS Operatives Training Scheme (COTS), you’ll receive a Green Labourer’s Card. This allows somebody new to the scaffolding industry to work in a scaffolding gang on the ground, without a harness or tool belt, simply passing and receiving scaffolding components. Even though you won’t be working at height, you still have a responsibility to work safely.
After the Green Card, training scaffolders move on to the Red CISRS card for Trainees. They are entitled to work as part of a gang, under the direct supervision of either a fully trained scaffolder or an Advanced Scaffolder. To progress from being a Trainee, your training becomes NVQ based, which means you need to build your portfolio with evidence of certain types of work that you have achieved on site.
Once complete, you’ll gain your Scaffolder card (Blue) and with further training you’ll eventually reach the Advanced Level Gold card. At these levels, you as the operative are now fully and individually responsible. If you fail to work according to the rules and regulations set out by HSE, and if it can be proven that you, as an individual, have been incompetent then you will be personally punished – not your employer.
Individual Scaffolders Can Be Liable
It’s important to understand the various levels involved in climbing the scaffolding ladder, and particularly their level of responsibility at each level.
The higher your level, the more responsibility you have undertaken. If you’re the one at fault then you can be prosecuted as an individual, rather than the company you work for facing charges/fines.
Like the Terrance Murray case in which a 28 year was found guilty of breaching Section 7(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
A concerned member of the public took photos of Mr Murray in Manchester while he was erecting scaffolding in an unsafe manner with no edge protection and no fall arrest harness. Mr Murray was found to be working at a height of around 18 metres – a height at which a fall onto the concrete below would have been fatal.
The HSE began an investigation that found Mr Murray’s employers had done everything correctly. They had taken all reasonable steps to reduce the risks of working at height; Murray had completed all required training, had years of experience under his belt and was provided with all the equipment he needed to work safely.
Because of these facts, the HSE came to the conclusion that Mr Murray had acted alone and against his extensive training when he made the decision to work at height without edge protection or any safety measures in place. Shockingly, Murray was also found to be showing a trainee scaffolder the ropes at the time!
In court, Murray pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for a year, given 100 hours of community service, and ordered to pay over £600 in costs.
This case felt like a turning point in the industry in the sense that it demonstrated no individuals are above the rules and regulations put in place to keep workers safe. It shows how individuals can be held accountable for their own decisions or omissions in cases of Health & Safety breaches.
It also shows that an accident or injury doesn’t need to occur in order for the HSE to get involved…
Stay Safe and Compliant
This just goes to show that the importance of complying with the rules and regulations in place for working safely at height extends past your safety. Being found guilty of breaking the rules can lead to prison sentences, expensive fines and suspension. It’s not just something employers need to maintain, it’s up to the individuals as well!
And if you’re an employer, ask yourself – how do your staff act when unsupervised? Could it be a member of your team in court answering charges similar to these?
To remain safe and fully compliant while working as a scaffolder, it’s vital that you complete all essential scaffolding training courses and keep your CISRS card up to date. Also, make sure that you use an accredited CISRS training provider – like Safety & Access! We also provide group training sessions in Nottingham, Lincolnshire and London to suit all requirements.