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Thought it might be useful to detail an accident that happened on our site during the main construction if only to prevent others from having a similar issue. I'm sure that we must have done some things wrong here, but there were others to blame in this tale too, and the events that unfolded seemed very bizarre to me. 

 

We used a registered scaffolding company to hire the scaffolding from and this was erected in August 2009. It was used for several months to do all of the main construction work and then towards the end of its time here someone fell off it. We used a particular builder to do all of the timber frame work, he supplied his own workers, and we paid him (and only him), in cash as he requested. We never paid any money directly to his team members. Towards the end of 2009 he sent a new guy here to do some work on the soffits and he arrived along with one of the regular team (the boss wasn't on site that day which wasn't that unusual as it was often just members of his team). The OH was living in a caravan on site at that time so greeted the 2 guys, one of whom he knew quite well as he had been working here for several months. He offered them tea and bacon rolls as he tended to do most mornings and went into the caravan to sort that out. About 10 minutes after they arrived there was a shout and the new guy had apparently fallen from the first level of the scaffolding landing on his arse (see photo to see the height of the first platform for reference). His co worker hadn't seen him fall and nor had my hubby who was in the caravan at the time. He was lying on the ground so my hubby called an ambulance. He said that the guy then got up, staggered to his car, put on his hi vis jacket and hard hat and sat in his car. When the ambulance arrived they suggested that he shouldn't have got into his car, and that they might get the fire brigade out to remove the roof in case he had damaged his neck. The guy refused their help at that point, said he wasn't having his car wrecked, and drove home. 

 

My husband reported the accident to the scaffolding company whereupon the owner drove to the site and attached an insurance certificate to the scaffolding dated that day. He said that the scaffolding wasn't signed off to use prior to that date even though it was hired back in August, several months before and had been used pretty much daily. Clearly he hadn't insured the site as he should have done. Health and Safety came to the site too and declared that some 'clips' were missing from the scaffolding, and put a notice on it declaring it not to be used. The scaffolding company came and put the clips on and it was then signed off as able to be used again. 


Apparently later that day the guy who fell off went to A&E and declared that he had hurt himself badly. He then engaged a no win no fee solicitor and took himself off to Australia to 'convalesce' or so he claimed.

 

We reported the accident to our insurance company, and stated that the worker had been supplied by the contractor who was erecting the timber frame, and the scaffolding was supplied by the registered scaffolding company. 

 

The first issue we had was that the builder denied having supplied the worker. This left us with an issue as our insurance company said that we couldn't prove that the worker came via the main builder, and nor could we prove that we hadn't employed him direct. The scaffolding company collected the scaffolding and put themselves into liquidation meaning that the no win no fee lawyer came after us. 

 

My husband had to make statements and years later it was still going on with any settlement the insurance company was prepared to make reducing as time went on. It all seemed quite bizarre to us however that it was our insurance cover that was being claimed against when there were 2 other parties involved. 

 

In hindsight we should probably have taken a register of every person on site and who they were supplied from, and required every worker to sign in when they attended. We possibly should have known that scaffolding had to have an insurance certificate attached to it, but we believed that hiring from a registered company would have meant that we were completely covered as they would do the right things. Ironically my husband had refused to hire the scaffolding from anywhere other than a registered scaffold company in order to comply with H&S, but ultimately it did us no good! 

Scaffolding.jpg

Edited by newhome
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Much appreciated for sharing with us. Very interesting read.

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It's a job to see how how he could fall off the first lift of that. It has the correct toe boards and double hand rails.

 

It's also a mystery how the roofers tiled the roof :ph34r: or has the top lift been removed post tiling?

 

We had a near accident on our first build. That time a main contractor had been contracted to build the house shell and they organised everything.  One of the roofers lost his footing and slid down the roof and barely saved himself from going over the scaffold.  After the incident (I don't think it was reported to HSE as no actual injury) the main contractor shut the site until the scaffold company had been to check the scaffold and put back the handrails that had aparantly gone missing.

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7 minutes ago, ProDave said:

It's a job to see how how he could fall off the first lift of that. It has the correct toe boards and double hand rails.

 

It's also a mystery how the roofers tiled the roof :ph34r: or has the top lift been removed post tiling?

 

Their levitation skills weren't that good :D - the top lift was removed once the roof was finished. 

 

 

Scaffolding Roof.jpg

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Needless to say - it wasn't me taking the photos! I didn't even venture up to the first lift! 

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@newhome When the builder denied hiring the worker I would have been temped to deny hiring him to build your house and then said "but thanks for the donation of a free shell".

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31 minutes ago, epsilonGreedy said:

@newhome When the builder denied hiring the worker I would have been temped to deny hiring him to build your house and then said "but thanks for the donation of a free shell".

 

We paid him weekly so that wouldn't have worked. I have all the payments logged and we made 11 payments to him in total. We also didn't know that he was going to deny having hired the worker until my husband was named as the 'employer' in the claim which wasn't the instant the incident happened and was after he had finished his part of the work here. It was obviously something they cooked up between them. 

 

Just found the claimant's FB page as it happens. He's apparently now a site foreman for a building firm having started there as a carpenter which is what he was when he came on site here. So much for life changing injuries 9_9. I think he thought that the compo would mean that he would never need to work again! I don't know how much he eventually got as the insurance company never told me but last I heard they were offering a relatively tiny amount

Edited by newhome

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Another argument for site security cameras and keeping then running 247.

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27 minutes ago, Ferdinand said:

Another argument for site security cameras and keeping then running 247.

 

We did have a camera on but it didn’t capture the place where he apparently fell. It was put there for security in truth. Never dreamt that it might be needed to record accidents. I’m just glad that no one fell from the top really as however you badge it, it all looks quite dangerous working at height, to me anyway. 

 

We were away on holiday when the scaffolding was erected but they don’t look to have taken many safety precautions (photo 1). And how are they supposed to work on the roof safely? Yes, the scaffolding would hopefully save them if they slid down it, but what prevents them from falling into the roof when the sarking is being done for example? 

 

 

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05E48709-FB4B-496A-8996-C7079504BE20.jpeg

22BC8CB8-BF9D-4C09-B497-193DA2D24798.jpeg

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My neighbour has scaffolding up at the moment, same company I used when I worked for a PV company.

I shall see if there is an insurance certificate on it.  I can't think I have ever seen one, ever.

 

It does make sense to have a sign-in book.  Seem petty and bureaucratic, but would help this sort of nonsense from going on.

Edited by SteamyTea

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53 minutes ago, Ferdinand said:

Another argument for site security cameras and keeping then running 247.

 

Bang on F.

I am as close to certain that one can be that video evidence has played a very significant role in all discussions about our refusal to pay in full for poor  workmanship. 

The same video footage also evidences unsafe practice on the part of several people (me included, sad to say)

 

If we ever build again, I would double the number of cameras. 

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It is unfortunate that it should be necessary, @recoveringacademic, but the case from @newhome has the scaffolder willing to 1 - falsify evidence by doing safety paperwork later and 2 - be willing to deceive the authorities about working arrangements.

 

I wonder how much of that is due to heavy consequences.

 

Does a scaffolder get deregistered and lose their livelihood, or have to employ a separate independent checker if they get caught? 

 

If it is heavily regulated, do leeway and informality necessarily reduce?

 

Ferdinand

 

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3 hours ago, Ferdinand said:

Does a scaffolder get deregistered and lose their livelihood, or have to employ a separate independent checker if they get caught? 

 

 

We didn’t see any consequences for the scaffolder, unless H&S threw the book at him with us being unaware of it, but I don’t think so. Well apart from him going into liquidation, although I rather doubt we caused that. I don’t think there was much wrong with the scaffolding in truth and the accident was pretty minor so maybe the H&S officer wasn’t that bothered, and I’m not sure that he was even aware of the irregularity in terms of the insurance. 

 

It still irks me that we were judged to be the party at fault here. Seems to me that the other parties got away it scot-free but both were guilty of deception whilst we were guilty of being niave. Self builders are more likely to be caught out in all sorts of areas due to inexperience, so if this post does nothing more than get people thinking more about the implications and consequences and thinking outside the box (as opposed to @Onoff‘s boxing in ;)) then it will have been worth posting. By that I mean conceptualising problems differently; and understanding your position in relation to a situation in a way you’d never thought of before. And use this forum for advice of course. Having H&S, solicitors,  insurance companies, and the courts (we were served with papers by the Sheriff court), involved in any sort of accident on site is all pretty stressful and it went on for years. 

 

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Such a valuable thread. BH at its best. Thank you @newhome. As a newbie, it has given me a whole new perspective to consider as I prepare for my build. Forewarned is forearmed.

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8 minutes ago, Dreadnaught said:

Such a valuable thread. BH at its best. Thank you @newhome. As a newbie, it has given me a whole new perspective to consider as I prepare for my build. Forewarned is forearmed.

 

I’m a newbie too (to this forum) just a scarred one! ;) 

 

I truely hope that nothing like this ever happens to anyone else, but the fact that it happened to me proves that unexpected and sometimes inexplicable shit does happen on occasion. 

 

I still roll my eyes when I recall being told that it was down to us to prove that we hadn’t employed the guy ourselves. We didn’t have documentation to prove that he had been employed by the builder but then he had nothing at all to prove that we had engaged him. Not even a text from us, as we had no idea who he was and we didn’t even find out his full name until he engaged a solicitor. He lied through his teeth on that so you have to wonder what else he lied about. 

 

 

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Should a request for weekly payment from a builder large enough to have an ongoing team presence on a job be a warning to any self builder?

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3 minutes ago, epsilonGreedy said:

Should a request for weekly payment from a builder large enough to have an ongoing team presence on a job be a warning to any self builder?

 

Yes possibly. We chose him as he had decent references and he was much cheaper than another quote we got from a large building company. We were given a fixed price and in fairness he stuck to it, apart from some extra things we wanted which cost a bit more. Although obviously there was a big falling out over the incident at the end. He wasn’t here every day as he had other jobs on the go, and that suited us as apart from the main construction period he fitted around my hubby doing his own bits and pieces such as the wiring etc. He was most definitely a ‘small local builder’ so I doubt that endless cashflow was at his disposal. Lived in the next road to us as it happened. We had no complaints about his work per se, just the incident that happened. 

 

 

 

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I am not a lawyer, but have been forced to study law at university (they stick these things on to make us rounded people).

I think H&S is mainly criminal law, so a company going bankrupt will not stop a prosecution.

What I suspect that what happened is that they are going after the person who is most likely to pay, which is you.

 

What should happen is these cases is that a court hearing should be forced on all concerned.  Most people will back away from that pretty quickly.

I would have thought that it was pretty easy to show that you had no contact with this bloke before his accident, that no one witnessed and he did not want treated.

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8 minutes ago, SteamyTea said:

 

What I suspect that what happened is that they are going after the person who is most likely to pay, which is you.

 

 

Oh I am absolutely sure that this was the case. No question in my mind at all. They knew we had insurance so it was all heaped on us. 

 

8 minutes ago, SteamyTea said:

I would have thought that it was pretty easy to show that you had no contact with this bloke before his accident, that no one witnessed and he did not want treated.

 

I argued endlessly with the solicitor appointed by the insurer over this. Unfortunately the bloke, the employer, and the other guy on site all cooked up a story in relation to this so it was their word against my husband’s. The incident including the refusal of treatment, walking back to his car, driving off etc was all in the very detailed written statement my husband made. After it happened and before we knew about the insurance claim one of the other guys on site let slip that the bloke had a lot of debt. I requested that the insurance company’s solicitor dig into proof of earnings as he was claiming for loss of earnings so as a ‘self employed’ tradesman he should be able to prove his taxable earnings which I rather suspect were non existent. He was also claiming that he would no longer be able to work although there was later a statement from a medical expert that stated that his injuries were ‘unremarkable’ and in his view there would be no difficulty in him doing the same job in the future. I have a folder of stuff on it somewhere! 

 

The consequences for us were the not insignificant hassle and stress, the scaffolding came down a bit earlier than we planned (but we purchased a scaffold tower to do the remaining jobs instead), and the insurance company wouldn’t extend the policy when we hadn’t finished when it expired. It pushed me into getting ‘unoccupied house under construction’ insurance instead which was buildings cover rather than a full blown building policy, but there were just bits to be completed by then (lots of bits nonetheless!). Plus every tradesman that we had on site after that was quizzed about their own insurance cover. 

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This is a very important and valuable thread.   There are a couple of additional things things that may also be helpful.

 

When I completed my Proposal Form for  Construction Insurance, I had to complete the following questions (among others):

image.thumb.png.2ff32bb3ae17a3d1259b4d20a620f29f.png

 

So, I ensured every contractor/ supplier working on my site had a written contract  (some very brief, depending on the scope of works) and had the appropriate Public Liability  Insurance cover in place. I insisted on getting a copy of the Policy Schedule, to ensure that it was current, BEFORE they started any work at site. 

 

Failure to comply with either of these questions may have invalidated my  insurance Policy in the event of an incident.   In fact, I did have an incident which was dealt with by the subcontractor and it was not dissimilar to the one experienced by @newhome but I did not have to make any claim on my insurance.

 

I created a template that I used in my enquiry documents or in a letter/email, prior to a contractor working at site- very simple, as follows:

Can you please confirm that you have a minimum Public Liability Limit of Indemnity of £2 million?  This is required to maintain my insurance cover on my Construction All Risks Insurance.

Also, please  send me a copy of your PL Insurance Schedule for my records .

 

 

Edited by HerbJ
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Thanks @HerbJ. The policy I took out does not contain those clauses. It was taken out in 2009 however so quite a long time ago and I'm sure things change quite a lot, especially in the H&S world we now live in. 

 

Out of interest here is what we were requested to provide by the claimant’s solicitor. It's a long list and I wonder whether it is all applicable to self builders. Most would surely only come under the banner if you were an employer? The statement from the guy says that he was self employed, and then names my husband as his employer. I would have thought those 2 things were mutually exclusive but perhaps not. However it's what we were faced with when caught up in this incident. Thankfully the insurer's solicitor dealt with all of it, and just came to us for information. 

 

 

 

 

 

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36C35CBB-C831-4F50-B7C6-8075C6AD9510.jpeg

Edited by newhome

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And also, purely out of interest, what defines a self builder and their need for insurance from any other type of work that someone has done on their house? So clearly there is a greater risk of accidents during the main construction phase where someone is working at height but there are similar jobs that are done to maintain houses too. So if I, as a householder, ask a local tradesman to repoint my chimney (for example) how liable am I as the householder? I'll wager that 99% of households won't ask to see someone's insurance before contracting them to do the work. In the event of an accident at my house who is liable? 

 

 

 

Edited by newhome

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Seems my neighbour's scaffolding has a tag, can't say I have ever noticed one before.

Scafftag.jpg

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A self-builder will usually be a domestic client, so only needs to be concerned with site insurance, not personal liability insurance (which you probably wouldn't be able to get unless you were a tradesperson anyway).

 

I did the much the same as @HerbJ and just asked for copies of each contractors liability insurance.  There were a few exceptions for low-risk minor works (like the chap I had in last Monday to clear some ground, lay some topsoil and help plant some trees), but in every case I did check that somewhere on their paperwork they stated that they were insured.

 

I also made it clear to every one on site during the build stage that my site insurance did not cover them for anything, and that I had no plant or tool insurance and would not be held liable for any losses if they left kit or tools on site overnight. 

 

I didn't have any problems, but as others have noted, virtually no one wore any PPE on site, and some chose to leave tools on site, despite me warning them that it was their risk.

 

 

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1 minute ago, JSHarris said:

A self-builder will usually be a domestic client, so only needs to be concerned with site insurance, not personal liability insurance (which you probably wouldn't be able to get unless you were a tradesperson anyway).

 

I did the much the same as @HerbJ and just asked for copies of each contractors liability insurance.  There were a few exceptions for low-risk minor works (like the chap I had in last Monday to clear some ground, lay some topsoil and help plant some trees), but in every case I did check that somewhere on their paperwork they stated that they were insured.

 

I also made it clear to every one on site during the build stage that my site insurance did not cover them for anything, and that I had no plant or tool insurance and would not be held liable for any losses if they left kit or tools on site overnight. 

 

I didn't have any problems, but as others have noted, virtually no one wore any PPE on site, and some chose to leave tools on site, despite me warning them that it was their risk.

 

 

 

In my case the claim was that the scaffolding was defective and he was instructed to use it by my husband thus rendering him liable for the accident. The scaffolding of course was on hire from elsewhere so one might assume that the liability would pass onto the scaffolding company but in this case it did not and they came after us. 

 

 

 

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