A man, who was gravely injured whilst working at Sainsbury’s, has presented his evidence to the Westminster Magistrates Court concerning his work accident.
The accident occurred on the 8th August 2013 when James Whelan was working at the Wandsworth, London, branch of Sainsbury’s supermarket on behalf of his employers, Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd, a construction company that specialises in scaffolds. However, as James was walking between an existing part of the building and the construction site, he applied pressure to an area of the plasterboard that gave way.
James fell seven metres down to a stairway below what he presumed to be a sound structure. After he was rushed to hospital, James was diagnosed with fractures to his spine, ribs and pelvis, as well as having a bruised lung. The extent of his injuries was so severe that the thirty-one year-old from Surrey has yet to make a full recovery.
An investigation into the circumstances of James’ accident was conducted by the Health and Safety Executives. The report determined that James’ employers could have taken many steps to prevent an accident such as James’. These included securing the walkway with guard rails or covering the fragile sections with a stronger material.
The scaffolding company were subsequently prosecuted by the HSE for breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005. Though Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd admitted liability for the accident, they disputed that they were negligent as they claim that they attempted to prevent accidents by limiting access to the dangerous pathway.
After the court hearing, the company were fined £6,000 for their negligence and ordered to pay £1,428 in costs. After the announcement of the fine, Gavin Pugh – an inspector with the HSE – commented that “The hazards presented by fragile surfaces and open edges are clear, and it is common knowledge that falls from height account for almost half of all deaths and serious injuries on construction sites. As such, companies like Bowmer & Kirkland should be fully aware of what needs to be done to adequately protect workers.
“The safety standards surrounding the walkway and fragile area fell some way short on this occasion, and it could have cost the scaffolder his life. He suffered painful injuries that still cause him pain and discomfort, but he could just as easily have been killed.”