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Health and Safety Plea After Cricklewood Dad Plunged To Death From Defective Scaffolding Structure

Man Suffered Serious Brain And Internal Injuries In Fall

10.12.2018

Andrew Hewitt, Press Officer | 0114 274 4255

A family have called for lessons to be learned after an inquest heard that a dad plunged to his death from a defective scaffolding rig.

David Smith suffered a catalogue of injuries, including brain and internal injuries, when he fell 24 feet from the structure in north west London.

The 38-year-old from Cricklewood was airlifted to St Mary’s Hospital and underwent emergency surgery. However, his condition did not improve. The father-of-two died 16 days after the incident after his family, on the advice of doctors, made the agonising decision to withdraw his life support. 

Following David’s death his family, including mum Lorraine Wright, instructed expert workplace injury lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the incident and support them through the inquest process.  

David’s family have now joined their legal team at Irwin Mitchell in urging companies to ensure health and safety standards are maintained at all times to help reduce the number of employees seriously injured or killed in the workplace.

It comes after an inquest was told that the scaffolding - which had been in place for nearly three months - contained defects. The hearing also heard that a health and safety statement of how the scaffolding should be safely erected and dismantled lacked appropriate detail and those involved in the erection and dismantling of the scaffolding lacked the appropriate industry qualifications for the type of bespoke structure.

Expert Opinion
“The inquest has been an incredibly difficult time for David’s family as they listened to the evidence as to how he was fatally injured.

“The family had a number of concerns and during the course of the inquest worrying evidence was presented to the court with regards to how some health and safety practices were not followed.

“We now call on all businesses to ensure that health and safety standards are enforced at all times to help protect workers.

“We will continue to support Lorraine and the rest of the family at this difficult time.”
Charlotte Dowson, Solicitor

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in handling workplace injury cases 

David, who had a son, Charlie, 18, and daughter, Tia, 16, was a self-employed contractor. He had worked for Wembley Scaffolding Services Ltd for around 13 years.

He was working at a site in Cricklewood Broadway on 16 February, 2017, when the structure gave way.

Another worker was also seriously injured when they also fell from the structure.

David was taken to hospital. Following surgery his family were told it was unlikely he would survive and if he did he would be severely brain damaged.

David’s condition did not improve and he suffered several strokes. He was pronounced dead on 4 March.

An inquest at North London Coroner’s Court was told that police considered bringing corporate manslaughter charges but decided not to proceed.

The case was referred to the Health and Safety Executive.

The inquest was told that a HSE report found that a bespoke scaffolding structure specifically calculated by a qualified person was required to be used at the site.

However, the work was not properly planned as a risk assessment lacked detail on how the scaffolding should be erected, altered or taken down safely.

The structure contained defects, although many appeared not to have caused the incident, the report found.

It added that nobody directly involved in putting up or taking down the structure had suitable industry qualifications. 

Lorraine, 60, said after the hearing:  “Dave was one of a kind. He was an infectious person, who had a huge heart and would do anything for anybody.

“Everybody wanted to be in his company. He would light up the room with his fantastic personality.

“Dave is my son and he was my whole world. I am so thankful and grateful that he chose me to be his mum.

“Our family still cannot believe he is no longer with us. He has left a huge hole in our lives and we are devastated that he will not get to see his children grow up.

“It is difficult not to think that if just a few simple steps had bene taken Dave would still be with us today.

“All we can hope for now is that his death was not totally in vain and employers recognise the importance of upholding health and safety standards at all times.

Charlie added: “My dad loved and cared for me and always made me happy. He was everything to me. My dad was the best old man that anyone could wish for.

“He was protective of me and my sister and was always there for us when we needed him. He was a generous person and loved to spend time with us. He was a funny guy and often made me laugh.

“We were his world and he was my world. I have lost my best friend, my partner in crime and my soulmate”.

A jury recorded a narrative verdict detailing how David fell from the scaffolding when it was dismantled in an incorrect sequence which caused the scaffold to become unbalanced.

It found that there were no ties at the cantilever level which would have secured the structure. The labourers dismantling the scaffold were given insufficient information with regard to its construction, including the number and location of ties. They were not provided with a risk assessment or any plan for dismantling the scaffold, particularly relating to the sequencing.

Failings before the day also played a factor; neither the company’s manager nor the labourers employed to dismantle the scaffold had adequate training or qualifications to work on a structure of this complexity and the labourers were not qualified to dismantle the scaffolding, the inquest concluded.

The jury added that the manager was not aware that this scaffold required calculations to be made by a civil engineer in relation to its design and construction or that a plan for dismantling it was required in accordance with TG2013 industry standards. It was also found that the risk assessment relating to the construction of the scaffold was inadequate.