Who’s Responsible for a Fall from Height
When a contractor is injured after falling from a scaffold, do you know who is legally responsible? Most people answering this question will quite rightly place liability on the contractor’s employer and the scaffolding contractor. However, there is another party who may be held culpable, the principal contractor or developer.
It seems that many developers and principal contractors are unaware of their legal responsibilities under the Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAHR 2005) and also unaware of the hefty financial penalties that they could face for breaching these regulations.
In a case which perfectly highlights the need for clarity on responsibility, in April a principal contractor was ordered to pay £5,000 in compensation and £2,000 in costs after a self-employed worker fell from a scaffold and suffered life-threatening injuries. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation discovered that scaffolding did not extend fully across the area of works and did not provide a protective area along the ledge where the operative was working. The principal contractor had failed to ensure suitable and sufficient measures to prevent anybody falling a distance liable to cause personal injury. This case highlights the necessity for developers and principal contractors using scaffolds on projects to be fully responsible for managing this access equipment. HSE legislation requires that they check that anybody they appoint has the skills, knowledge, experience and, where relevant, organisational capability to carry out the work safely and without risk to health.
Here are the most important points to remember if you’re a developer or principal contractor on a project that requires the use of scaffolding:
- Scaffold inspections should be carried out weekly, as required by WAHR 2005.
- All tradesmen using the scaffolds should be fully aware of how to work on scaffold safely and have undergone the appropriate training.
- Make sure that the scaffold contractor appointed has the necessary competence and experience to erect and dismantle scaffolding safely and that operatives are skilled and show evidence of health and safety compliance.
The use of scaffold on construction projects has increased over the past twenty years as scaffold is considered a much safer option than ladders in most circumstances. This means that just about anybody working on a construction project will need to use a scaffold at some point, so making sure that all site workers are trained to do so is vital to ensure compliance and avoid accidents and incidents that could result in serious injuries.
The legislation is in place for a very good reason – to protect those who are working at height and reduce the number of accidents involving falls from height in the future. When it comes to responsibility, ignorance is no excuse. If you’re working on a construction project and employing workers, either directly or indirectly, it’s worth checking out just who is responsible for what so that you can ensure compliance at all times.