Lessons from a worker death (fallen from heights)

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Lessons from a worker death (fallen from heights)

In construction, if you work from heights there is always a danger of falling. When you fall from a height of a couple of metres or more you are at risk of serious injury or death. Whether it is a roofer tackling issues on a roof or a painter painting the external walls all workers need to be protected. Historically workers would commonly work off ladders held into place by a fellow worker or tied to the building somehow. However, working off a ladder is far too dangerous, and this is proven time and time again. And if you are employing someone and they are harmed then you will be getting a visit from the HSE.

The construction industry has been highly active in discouraging the use of ladders.

In most professional construction companies, all works with ladders has been eliminated. The only times you should see a ladder on a professional construction site is when they are incorporated into a scaffolding system.
Workers are always going to have to work at height. The construction industry builds bungalows, skyscrapers, and everything in between. We need to work at height to build the properties we all love. But working on ladders is far too dangerous. Instead, we can have scaffolding installed and workers safely work from the scaffold. Or we can work from temporary platforms or use access cranes, machinery, and lifts.

Yes, this makes work far more expensive.

But we need to make not using this equipment more expensive in the form of fines and custodial sentences. Too many workers take the risk of no using sufficient safe access to save money.


Take the case of this poor fellow who died when he fell off scaffolding on a painting project in Hove. How, in 2020 does a person still fall from a height?
The project at Essex House in St Aubyns Gardens, Kingsway, Hove.
A person from the East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service stated “We were called at 12.43 on Thursday, September, 17, to assist the South East Coast Ambulance service (Secamb) with a medical incident in St Auybns Gardens, Hove.Crews from Hove and Brighton attended and one casualty was handed over in to the care of Secamb.”
A spokesperson for Sussex Police confirmed “A man has sadly died after falling from scaffolding at a building site in St Aubyns, Hove.
“The incident occurred about 12.35pm on Thursday, September 17, and officers remained at the site overnight to conduct investigations.
“The man sadly died on the evening of Sunday, September 20, and the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fall are ongoing in consultation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).”
So obviously it is early days in regards to what has happened here but it sounds like a construction worker has fallen from the building and died. If the worker fell from scaffolding how did he manage to do so? Was there an opening in the scaffold that he could potentially fall from. Why was he not wearing a harness?

Who is legally and financially responsible for this death?

Ultimately the Client is

So, in this case whoever ordered the construction of the building like say a family or the directors of the property development company are responsible. If they can prove that they hired a competent main contractor then the blame and liability shifts to the main contractor.

The Designer

The Architect or structural engineer need to prove that they designed the building in such a way that it may be constructed safely. If they can do this, then they are not liable.

The main contractor

The contractor needs to prove that they followed strict protocols to ensure that health and safety rules were followed. In this case there seems to have been no site supervision so the main contractor may be at fault. Where was the site foreman when this worker fell?

The sub-contractor

The subcontractor needs to be able to prove that they had their staff trained and that they were supervised otherwise they will be liable.

Lessons from a worker death (fallen from heights). The Lessons to be learned

Firstly, workers need to have private life insurance so that their families are taken care of.
Secondly works need to really take care of themselves onsite and refuse to work when it is unsafe. Even if this means losing their job – it is better to be job seeking that being dead before your time or injured.
Thirdly, subcontractors and contractors need to work on their health and safety procedures and the supervision and implementation of such. You do not want somebody’s early death on your conscious as well as the legal and financial ramifications of such an incident.
Finally we would state that everyone working in the construction industry knows that working from heights is dangerous. A similar incident happened in Hove only a couple year before. A worker fell from a height and died in almost the exact same scenario.

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Charlie Standen
Charlie Standen
Charlie started out as a quantity surveyor and project manager before moving into property development and property investment. He also enjoys all aspects of writing, videography, and new media. He writes content for the property development course on property development, property investment, and property finance.