Scaffold director gets prison sentence after worker electrocuted

The director of a scaffolding company has received a suspended prison sentence after one of his employees was electrocuted.

Ian Pepper, director of Kent-based Canterbury City Scaffolding, has been sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The case related to 36-year-old employee of Canterbury City Scaffolding, Steven Gilmore, who received an 11,000-volt shock while building a temporary roof scaffold over an open-air drinks depot in Crawley, West Sussex, in November 2021.

Gilmore struck a live power line running across the site while carrying a 6-metre scaffold tube and subsequently broke his leg after falling five metres to the ground.

The father-of-one also suffered “life-changing” electrical burns on his hands, “which he will never regain full use of”, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The regulator said Canterbury City Scaffolding and its director failed to ensure the job was properly risk assessed, with neither making any attempt to consult network operator UK Power Networks about the line voltage and safe clearance distances.

The HSE also said the director – who was overseeing the work onsite – allowed his team to carry 6-metre long metal scaffold tubes at near=vertical angles within striking distance of the high-voltage line, without taking any precautions.

Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, while Pepper pleaded guilty to an offence under Section 37(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The pleas were made in Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 22 September 2023, but sentencing only took place on 15 January. In addition to Pepper’s sentence, Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd was fined £50,000.

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.”

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