A scaffolding firm was fined £50,000 after a worker suffered life-changing injuries as the result of an 11,000-volt electric shock.
And the company’s owner and director was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Monday (15 January).
Steven Gilmore, 36, 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.
Canterbury City Scaffolding had been contracted by Drinks Warehouse UK Ltd to put up the temporary roof to provide shelter over the winter.
But on Monday 29 November 2021 the father-of-one struck a live 11kV power line running across the site while lifting a six-metre scaffold tube.
Mr Gilmore fell over five meters to the ground and suffered a badly broken leg. He also sustained life-changing electrical burns to both hands. He is not expected regain full use of either hand, the court was told.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident and found that Canterbury City Scaffolding and the company’s boss Ian Pepper had failed to assess the risks properly.
The HSE said that the work had been a “high-risk temporary roof scaffold assembly job near a high-voltage line”.
The investigation found that Pepper and his company had been “fully aware of how close the temporary roof scaffold was being built to the 11kV line”
But the HSE said: “No attempt was made by the scaffold contractor or its director to consult UK Power Networks (the network operator) 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 6m-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.
“Every year people at work are killed or seriously injured when they come into contact with live overhead power lines.
“Those responsible for work near overhead lines must have a clear understanding of the associated risks and precautions that need to be taken.”
Pepper, 48, of Greenacres farm, Hoath Road, Hoath, Canterbury, pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety law at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on Friday 22 September 2023.
Canterbury City Scaffolding Ltd also admitted breaking health and safety law.
The company was fined £50,000 and Pepper was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and 20 rehabilitation activity requirement days.
HSE enforcement lawyer Jon Mack brought the case and, after the sentencing hearing on Monday, 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.”