Firm fined after decorator is seriously injured in stairwell fall

An Essex construction company has been fined after a self-employed decorator was severely injured in a stairwell fall at a building site in Cambridgeshire.

David Scanlon, a decorator from Dunstable, fractured several ribs, his left arm and thumb; snapped the tendons on an index finger; cut and bruised his head; cracked two vertebrae; and suffered several collapsed discs as a result of the incident at Challis Green, Barrington on 17 January 2012.

He was hospitalised for five days and has yet to return to work.

Waltham Abbey-based Hill Partnerships Ltd was prosecuted today (6 February) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found temporary guard-rails at the site did not meet statutory requirements.

Cambridge Magistrates’ Court heard that Mr Scanlon had been employed by a contractor of Hill Partnerships since October 2011 to undertake external and internal decorating at the residential building site. He was working on the first floor of a block of flats when he fell.

He had stopped on a landing area to talk to colleagues who were going down to the ground floor and leant against a wooden guard-rail around the stairwell. It was unable to support him and collapsed, sending him crashing headfirst onto the stairs below.

HSE established that the guard-rail was poorly designed and constructed, and simply wasn’t fit for purpose. The court was told that had it been more robust the incident could have been prevented.

Hill Partnerships Ltd, of Powdermill Lane, Waltham Abbey, Essex, was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay £4,501 costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Gavin Bull, said:

“Hill Partnerships failed to ensure the guard-rails they provided to prevent falls inside the buildings were suitable when work was being undertaken. There are well established design standards for temporary guard-rails that could have been adopted and put in place.

“Construction work is a high-risk activity and falls account for a large proportion of all deaths and serious injuries. The end result here is that Mr Scanlon sustained serious injuries that could have been avoided.”

More information about working safely at height can be found on the HSE website at:

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Regulation 8(a) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states that: “Every employer shall ensure that, in the case of (a) a guard-rail, toe-board, barrier or similar collective means of protection, Schedule 2 is complied with.”
  3. Further HSE news releases are available at

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