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Northampton Magistrates' Court has heard how a scaffolding collapse in Corby caused several people to require hospital treatment for shock.
While nobody was physically hurt in the accident, which took place on August 17th 2012, Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigators established it was "sheer luck" nobody died when debris fell 20 metres to the ground in a crowded commercial precinct.
Pedestrians were going about their normal business at the Willow Place Shopping Centre in Queen's Square when the incident happened and magistrates were told the scaffolding put in place to allow for renovations was not structurally sound.
The court audience heard debris netting had been fitted to scaffolding tubes, but was not built to withstand high winds which ripped through Corby on the day and this meant it acted as a sail and caused wooden panels and steel pipes to plunge to the ground below.
Objects showered across a busy area and a number of businesses had to shut down while the area was made safe and a clean-up operation put in place.
For failing to put the scaffolding up properly and not considering the dangers of high wind, Desborough Scaffolding was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £4,678 in costs after pleading guilty to single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.
Addressing the media after the trial, HSE inspector Sam Russell said, "It was sheer luck that no-one was seriously injured or suffered a fatal accident as a result of this totally preventable accident.
"Scaffolding erected to an approved design by competent persons should be able to withstand high wind loads without failing.
"This case highlights the requirement of following prescribed industry designs and manufacturers' instructions. The company’s failure to do so put innocent workers and members of the public at significant risk."
It is unclear if any compensation claims were made by the pedestrians who suffered shock and may have gone on to develop post-traumatic stress, but similar cases in the past have resulted in a substantial lump sum payment.
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