Suspended sentence for director after scaffolder suffers electric shock

A Kent scaffolding company has been fined and its director given a suspended prison sentence after a scaffolder suffered an 11kV electric shock.

Steven Gilmore, 36, was working for contractor Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd alongside a small team of scaffolders to erect a temporary roof structure over an open-air depot for Drinks Warehouse UK Ltd in Snow Hill, Crawley, West Sussex.

On 29 November 2021, Gilmore struck a live 11kV power line running across the site while lifting a 6m scaffold tube. He then fell over 5m to the ground, suffering a badly broken leg. He also sustained life-changing electrical burns to both hands, which he will never regain full use of.

No precautions to prevent injury

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd and its director, Ian Pepper, had failed to ensure the high-risk temporary roof scaffold assembly job near a high voltage line was properly risk assessed.

The investigation also highlighted that, despite being fully aware of how close the temporary roof scaffold was being built to the 11kV line, no attempt was made by the scaffold contractor or its director to consult UK Power Networks (the network operator) about line voltage and safe clearance distances.

HSE said that while directing the scaffold assembly works on site himself, Pepper allowed his team of scaffolders to use 6m-long metal scaffold tubes at near vertical angles within striking distance of the high voltage line without any precautions to prevent injury.

Fine, suspended prison sentence and unpaid work

Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 22 September 2023. The company’s director, Ian Pepper, 48, of Hoath near Canterbury, pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.  Sentencing was adjourned to 15 January 2024.

The company was fined £50,000 and Pepper was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Speaking after the sentencing hearing, HSE inspector Susie Beckett said: “This scaffolder’s injuries were life-changing and could have been fatal.

“This incident could have been avoided if this high-risk scaffold job had been properly planned, including seeking free advice from the network operator on what precautions to take, and then implementing those well-established precautions to prevent accidental contact with the overhead line.”

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