Canterbury firm fined and director receives suspended sentence after Ramsgate scaffolder suffers serious injuries on site

Scaffolding

A Canterbury scaffolding company has been fined and its director given a suspended prison sentence after a scaffolder suffered an 11,000-volt electric shock.

Steven Gilmore, from Ramsgate, was working for contractor Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd alongside a small team of scaffolders, to erect a temporary roof scaffold at an open-air drinks depot in Snow Hill, Crawley, West Sussex.

Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd had been contracted by Drinks Warehouse UK Ltd to erect the temporary roof structure over its open-air depot in order to provide shelter for operations during the winter months.

On 29 November 2021 the father-of-one struck a live 11kV power line running across the site while lifting a six-metre scaffold tube. He then fell over five meters to the ground suffering a badly broken leg.

Steven, 36, sustained life-changing electrical burns to both hands, which he will never regain full use of.

Steven, known to friends as Gilly, underwent six hours in theatre for extensive damage to his hands and arms with his thumbs and forearms having completely severed muscles meaning the tissue was dead.

He endured a massive 48,000 volts going through his body meaning there were internal burns.

Steven suffered life-changing injuries

Following the horrific injuries Steven’s pal Kieran Friend has set up the fundraiser to help with costs for Steven’s partner Vicky to travel to the hospital and also to help with bills while he was recovering.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd and its director had failed to ensure the high-risk temporary roof scaffold assembly job 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 about line voltage and safe clearance distances.

While directing the scaffold assembly works on site himself, the director allowed his team of scaffolders to use six-metre-long metal scaffold tubes at near vertical angles within striking distance of the high voltage line without any precautions to prevent injury.

Work around overhead power lines, no matter how temporary, is high risk with serious or fatal consequences if not carefully planned and carried out.

Guilty plea

At Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 22 September, Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.  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.

The company was fined £50,000 and director Ian 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.”

This prosecution was brought by HSE enforcement lawyer Jon Mack.

6 Comments

  1. That poor man..will he ever work again? Hopefully the Company will be forced to make financial arrangements to ensure he doesn’t suffer in poverty for the rest of his life. Such carelessness on the part of the Director.

  2. wow I really hope the young man gets a hell of alot more than £50.000 he won’t be able to work again. it’s life changing hope that company pay his full wages fore the rest of his life speedy recovery young man thinking of you and your family xx

  3. There is no way that company is going to remain solvent having to fund, say, 30 lost working years of life.

    Presumably all that will happen is that a huge charge against City Scaffolding Ltd would be made, and the company will simply declare bankruptcy.

    No lost earnings liability charge could ever be made against the director personally.

    The DWP will pick up the bill.

    (Hint: The clue is in LTD)

    • It’ll most likely be a claim against the companies insurance, assuming there was insurance in place that covers injuries to a worker as a result of the companies failings, the guilty verdict will hopefully speed the claims process up and may the payout be sufficient to allow as good a quality of life going forward as is possible.

      • Its unlikely the firms insurance will pay out for negligence, what is astonishing is he survived 11kv, let alone falling 5 meters as well.

  4. Terrible thing to happen his employer should have employee liability protection insurance. The £50,000 fine should be paid directly to the injured man as an interim payment. I don’t know if scaffolding firms train their employees and warn them of the dangers of overhead power cables I suspect not because I have read of similar cases.

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