A Lincoln builder has been handed a four-month suspended prison sentence after a self-employed bricklayer broke his back in two places after falling three metres from faulty scaffolding.
Robert Wilkin, 70, of Lincoln, was left paralysed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life following the incident at a warehouse on Freeman Road, North Hykeham, on 14 February 2013.
Mr Wilkin spent five months in hospital and has had to have his home especially converted so he can live on the ground floor.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious safety failings in the construction of the scaffolding by Rodney Foyster, who had sub-contracted Mr Wilkin to carry out the bricklaying work.
Lincoln Magistrates’ Court was told today (20 February) that HSE found Mr Foyster was not trained in building scaffolding. He failed to check it was safe for use and failed to ensure the safety of workers once it was in use.
Mr Foyster was hired to fix a wall that had been damaged at the warehouse after a lorry had reversed into it and had sub-contracted Mr Wilkin for the bricklaying.
Mr Foyster bought and erected the second-hand scaffolding before Mr Wilkin was appointed. Scaffolding towers were positioned both on the inside and the outside of the warehouse. Wooden boards were removed from the tower on the inside and used to form a makeshift bridge between the two towers.
When the incident happened, Mr Wilkin’s son, Damien, climbed the ladder to the top of the scaffold tower inside the building and successfully made it across the makeshift bridge to the outside scaffold tower.
However, when Mr Wilkin climbed the ladder, he fell from the wooden boards onto the concrete floor three metres below, suffering life-changing injuries.
After the incident HSE served a Prohibition Notice on Mr Foyster halting further work on the scaffolds until acceptable safety measures were put in place.
Rodney Foyster, 56, of Mons Road, Lincoln, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 18 months, ordered to carry out 200 hours worth of unpaid community work. He was also ordered to pay £2,941 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Martin Waring said:
“Our investigations revealed a catalogue of errors made by Mr Foyster in the assembly of this scaffolding – something he was neither qualified for nor competent in doing.
“There were numerous defects such as no edge protection, poor ladder safety and insufficient access onto the scaffolds.
“Mr Wilkin has unfortunately paid for this lack of care with his health, having been left paralysed for the rest of his life.”
Mr Wilkin said:
“I don’t remember much about what happened after I fell. Lots of people were rushing about and it took the ambulance crew about 20 minutes to get me onto a back board because I had fallen in an awkward place between pallets of bricks.
“I had an operation to fuse together my spine which was fractured in two places. I remember being in a lot of pain and was on morphine and sleeping tablets.
“Within a couple of days I was told it was unlikely I would ever walk again and I’ve been in a wheelchair ever since.
“My hobbies used to be collecting antiques, walking and gardening but I can’t do these things anymore. I find this all very difficult as I used to be very active.
“My life has been ruined because I can no longer do the things I used to do. I can’t go out on my own or drive. I feel my freedom has been taken from me and it’s been really hard on my family.”
For more information about the Health and Safety Executive’s work with the construction industry, go to http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction
Notes to Editors
- Regulation 4(1)(c) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states: “Every employer shall ensure that work at height is carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe, and that its planning includes the selection of work equipment in accordance with regulation 7.”