Robin Selley

In a rather unusual case, an “employee”, not an employer as we would often see, has been prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for dangerously working at height.

Back in January 2015, the HSE were contacted by a member of the public to report that a man had been seen balancing on scaffold tubes in the rain whilst working on the roof of a multi-storey hotel development in central Manchester.

We will all have seen the famous black and white photograph (Lunch atop a Skyscraper (New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam) showing construction workers taking a break during the construction of the 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan, New York City. Times have of course moved on and this sort of working practice has long gone.

Back to central Manchester where HSE Inspectors found David Mulholland working on the roof. He had apparently climbed up the scaffold to hammer the steel beams into place and had not used the tower scaffold that had been made available for him.

There was also a full time scaffolder on site available for any of the contractors to utilise to ensure safe working platforms were in place.

Mr Mullholland pleaded guilty to breaching Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, fined £1,400.00 and was ordered to pay costs of £2,939.18.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly said after the case:

“This case dealt with a serious work at height risk which could have led to a fatal incident. David Mullholland failed in his duty to protect his own safety while at work and also placed others at risk had he dropped any tool from the position he was seen in some 27 metres above street level. During HSE’s investigation he said that he did not appreciate how high he was.

“Never before in my career as an HSE Inspector have I seen such a staggering disregard for personal safety. It is a matter of pure luck that no-one was injured or killed.

“My thanks go to the member of the public who reported their concern to us as they have been instrumental in saving the life of Mr Mulholland and arguably anyone below him at that time.”

It is not always employers who expose their workers to significant risks whilst at work, sometimes employees clearly do not require any help from their employers at all to expose themselves and others to a serious risk of harm.

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Dangerous Work at Height