Builder caught working in raised excavator bucket in South Wales

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Health and safety
Health and safety

A housebuilder  from Lancashire and its sole director have been fined for a series of safety failings following two serious incidents at a new-build development in South Wales.

In the first incident which occurred on August 9 2011, self-employed bricklayer Daniel King, then aged 22, of Loughor, West Wales, injured his back and left foot when he fell almost four metres from a poorly constructed scaffold on the building site.

Six months later, in March 2012, a contractor was spotted working at height in the elevated bucket of an excavator in clear view of the company director.

Both incidents occurred at the same plot within a site at Cae Canol, Baglan, near Port Talbot, where Blackburn-based Paddle Ltd has been building new homes as part of a phased development over several years.

The company and its director, Derek Hugh Barnes, were prosecuted after an investigation by the HSE identified a blatant disregard for worker safety.

Swansea Crown Court heard that the scaffold that King fell from was in very poor condition and was missing vital guard rails, toe boards and other fall protection measures.

HSE inspectors checked the structure three days after the fall, once the bricklayer had reported the incident, and found it was also being used to take loads of bricks and blocks that it was simply not fit to carry.

In relation to the second incident, the court was told that Barnes was fully aware that a worker for his company was using an excavator bucket to work at height.

The dangerous practice was witnessed by a concerned householder who photographed and reported the activity to HSE.

Barnes was captured watching nearby, and had clearly consented to the machine being misused in this way.

The judge heard that Paddle Ltd has a lengthy history of HSE enforcement action and has been served with a number of Prohibition Notices for unsafe work at height.

The company was also prosecuted by HSE in April 2010 at Bridgend Magistrates Court relating to failings at a site in St Athan.

Paddle Ltd, of Pleasington, Blackburn, was fined a total of £56,000 and ordered to pay £11,000 in costs after pleading guilty to safety breaches.

Derek Hugh Barnes, of the same address, was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for two years, disqualified from acting as a company director of three years and fined £32,000 with £11,000 costs for pleading guilty to  safety breach.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Phil Nicolle said: “Paddle Ltd and Derek Barnes have, over the years, shown a blatant disregard for health and safety management on their construction sites, as was clearly evident when we investigated the Baglan incidents.

“Worker safety was clearly compromised on both occasions and the failings we identified are textbook examples of why falls from height remain such a common problem in the construction industry.

“Companies and directors have clear duties of care and safety responsibilities, and it is vital they properly assess, manage and supervise all work activity to mitigate risks at all times.”