Hotel fined €18k over 'death trap' scaffolding accident

Hotel fined €18k over 'death trap' scaffolding accident

THE operators of a top Dublin hotel have been fined €18,000 after a worker was injured when he fell through rotten boards on a “death-trap” scaffolding tower.

Olema Consultants, of 60 Harcourt St, Dublin 2, were also ordered to pay approximately €9,000 in legal costs and witness expenses.

Following a two-day hearing at Dublin District Court, the hotel firm run by Brian McGill was found guilty by Judge John O'Neill of offences under the Safety and Health and Welfare at Work Act.

The prosecution came following a Health and Safety Authority (HSA) investigation into incident on May 6th 2014 at the Harcourt Hotel. The court heard a worker had been on a 15-metre scaffolding tower. 

HSA inspector David O'Connell said the man had been standing on the third floor platform level when he went through a board and fell onto the second level. He then went through boards again and landed on the tower's first level, a total drop of six metres.

Mr O'Connell told the prosecution counsel that the man had been initially standing on a single board which was rotten and snapped in half. 

Fundamental components were absent from the tower, the inspector said, adding: the scaffolding had no bracing; there was an inadequate number of ties attaching the tower to the building: a platform on the scaffolding was not in compliance with codes of practice; there were no guard rails and it had rotten boards. The bracing is a fundamental component to stop it from collapsing, swaying and buckling, Mr O'Connell said.

The worker was in hospital for three days and suffered multiple injuries but is back at work, however, he may have ongoing back and neck pain.

Managing director Brian McGill told the court the hotel was being prepared for refurbishment work. A health and safety expert was due to come on site to advise and to train workers. However, he claimed that without his knowledge his foreman decided to put the scaffolding up two days before the health and safety consultant arrived. 

He said that after the accident he suspended the foreman for a week but has let him keep his job.

Pat Dunphy the health and safety advisor who came on site after the accident agreed that he had told the foreman work not to start before he arrived. 

Two days after the accident, the foreman was still working at the site, the court heard. Information Mr Dunphy was given about the distance the worker fell for the purpose of filling out an incident report form was also incorrect. He was told the man fell 2.9 metres.

The defence argued that the company was not to blame for a decision made by their foreman, the project manager, who disobeyed orders when he brought the scaffolding onto the site.

Prosecuting counsel Ronan argued that the company was responsible for the “death-trap”. He said their claim about the foreman was never mentioned to the HSA official who investigated the incident