Safety barrier had been removed from balcony…
A self-employed joiner who wishes to remain anonymous is paralysed from the waist down as a result of a fall from balcony he was working on in a church in South Kensington.
He had been contracted by the local parish council to work on the refurbishment of the balcony at St Paul’s Church. The project began in January 2009 with the aim of installing an adjustable floor and handrail so that the use of the balcony could be made more flexible with options for a stepped church-seating style and a flat raised position.
Initially a protective barrier was raised around the balcony but after complaints that the barrier was impeding the transportation of materials to the site it was taken down. A lower barrier was erected instead which was slightly more than a metre high when the floor was in its lower stepped position but was a mere 20cm above the balcony surface when it was in a raised position. It was decided to implement a system of work to install a temporary barrier that could provide more protection when the floor was raised to a higher level.
The accident victim had been working on filling a hole in the balcony floor on 3 March 2010 while the balcony was in its higher raised position. Crucially the temporary barrier had not yet been installed at this point and the rail that he had been leaning on while carrying out the repair work didn’t have an upright support. The rail dropped after the joiner put his weight onto it and he went over the edge falling three metres to the floor below. His immediate injuries included a broken back, broken ribs and a broken shoulder. But the fall has had a long-term impact too as he remains paralyzed from the waist down since the accident.
HSE inspector Peter Collingwood who investigated the accident said the security protocols for working at heights had been lacking:
“Simple, higher edge protection, which that had been in place earlier in the project, had been removed and a temporary extra barrier for use when the new floor was in the raised position was not put in place.
“This incident has had life-changing consequences for this man, and shows how important it is for companies to ensure that effective edge protection exists to guard against any potential falls from height.”
The Church Council appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay full costs of £4458. The Council entered an early guilty plea, announced its deep regret over the accident and had already come to a compensation agreement with the joiner. They also erected a scaffold around the balcony to prevent similar accidents occurring.
“Health and Safety News” updates newsletter, click here. The new ‘Health and Safety News’ section on our web site is updated daily with new, up to the minute stories. The stories are also released via Twitter – why not follow us on Twitter? and receive new stories as and when they happen?