Accident in a public place results in scaffolder prosecution

An accident in a public place which left a woman with head injuries and fractures to her ankle has resulted in a self-employed scaffolder being prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

In January 2011 Thomas Hannen was contracted by the Argyll and Bute Council to erect scaffolding around a disused hotel on the Isle of Bute seafront, to allow the council to assess the building’s condition.

Members of the public were not excluded or actively discouraged from using the pavement beneath the work area when Mr Hannen and two employees began work.

A council surveyor visited the site and informed Mr Hannen’s that an upright scaffolding pole was obstructing the pavement.

Before the council surveyor left the site he also mentioned that the area was a busy pavement and that Mr Hannen should ensure that people were safe.

As a result a scaffolding pole was placed horizontally between two upright poles. No padding or warning tape was wrapped around the pole to soften any inadvertent contact or make it easily visible to the public.

Later on the same day, a 61 year old local woman was walking underneath the scaffold when she hit her head on the horizontal pole. She had to be taken to hospital as she sustained a head injury that required stitches and fractures to her ankles caused by her falling as a result of the impact with the pole.

The resulting HSE investigation found that Mr Hannen failed to:

  1. Take advantage of the off from the council’s building standards officer to temporarily close the footpath
  2. Complete any risk assessment, or any risk assessment that was completed appeared to have been wholly inadequate and did not guard against risk to the public using the pavement
  3. Erect a scaffold with any diversion on the pavement or exclude the public from the work site
  4. Display any warning signs alerting the public that it was dangerous within the work area such as padding and warning tape around poles
  5. Instruct his employees to attach padding or warning tape around the erected scaffolding

Swain & Co.’s personal injury solicitors say that due to the failings of the scaffolder, a woman has been seriously injured in an preventable accident in a public place.

Anyone planning construction work in public places must carry out a risk assessment to identify potential dangers to the public and should take adequate steps to prevent them.


If you or a family member has been injured in an accident in a public place, Swain & Co can help you.

We offer you a free initial consultation to discuss your potential case and the funding options available to you.

Contact us for free through email or on 0800 0351 999