THE owner of a Camborne company who pleaded guilty to putting his staff and members of the public at risk while erecting scaffolding at towns across Cornwall has been fined more than £11,000.
Truro Magistrates' Court found Anthony Dale, 26, of Tuckingmill, who runs Protec Scaffolding, had breached health and safety regulations over an eight-month period between March and November last year, despite warnings that he could face prosecution.
He had also put up scaffolding at four sites on busy streets in Helston, Camborne, and Penzance between August and November 2012 without a licence from the highway authority, Cornwall Council.
The court heard Dale, who started working as a scaffolder aged 15, had not applied for licences to put up the scaffolding on Bassett Street and College Street in Camborne, Chapel Street in Penzance and Coinagehall Street in Helston.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation into the firm last March as a result of its unsafe practices at work.
Stephen Covell, for the HSE, told magistrates HSE officials had CCTV footage of Dale's staff putting up scaffolding without the use of harnesses, guard rails and boards to direct traffic and protect men working on the scaffolding.
On Chapel Street in Penzance, he said, the HSE saw a Protec employee putting up scaffolding without a guard rail to prevent him from falling and saw a large pole, used to stabilise the scaffolding during its construction, sticking out into the highway over double white lines.
At Friday's hearing Mr Covell said: "The pole was not marked red and white to warn motorists and was in the highway, and could have been hit by a vehicle. A coach was seen reversing near the pole and it was a near-miss and could have caused a serious incident, or even caused the scaffolding to collapse.
"There were people on the scaffold and members of the public walking underneath. It was unsafe."
As a result of the careless working practices the HSE served Dale with an improvement notice. Last July it also wrote to him recommending staff training and scaffolding safety measures. However, he failed to tighten up his procedures and in February this year he was served with a prohibition notice.
Magistrates fined Dale £8,000 for contravening HSE regulations and £3,330 for obstructing the footpath without a licence. He was also ordered to pay £5,114 towards the legal costs incurred by Cornwall Council and the HSE.
They gave him full credit for his guilty pleas but said the fines could have been as high as £15,000.
Defending Dale, Alister Pilling, said he had launched Protec in 2007 and employed five people, including his brother and wife.
He said during the past six years there had been general compliance with licensing regulations but Dale found it difficult to check on all his sites dotted across the county to ensure they were meeting HSE standards.
He said the firm had now adopted much safer practices which meant it had to work more slowly, which had forced Dale to put up his prices. As a result he had been forced to reduce his staff to three.
He told magistrates: "He accepts that he was fortunate not to have suffered any accidents or injuries to staff or public. He has had no accidents or claims in six years and hopes that will continue."