151 Rosebery Avenue
27 April 2006
Dear Mr Morby
Grant Prior's article "More deaths with system scaffolding" (CN, 13/4/06: p5) misrepresents HSE's research "Factors Influencing Scottish Construction Accidents". This project brought together three teams of researchers to analyse the available statistics and assess the factors which might affect accident rates. The research was informed by substantial discussion with the industry. The complete research report can be downloaded from HSE's website www.hse.gov.uk/research/rrhtm/rr443.htm which details the extensive analysis done by the research team.
The research does not blame system scaffolding for the higher rates of deaths in Scotland; the research does not "highlight the prevalence of system scaffolding as a major cause of increased accidents". The analysis showed that more non-scaffolders were involved in high falls from scaffolds in Scotland. The research team carried out interviews with people working in the industry and it was during these interviews that a possible link with "system scaffold" was hypothesised. The report makes it clear that hypothesis does not constitute a correlation, and there is no statistical evidence of a link. It merely gives an indication of where further research may be directed, although the need for specific "system scaffold" qualification was highlighted and this is being addressed by the scaffold industry.
The key finding of this uniquely collaborative report is that when the statistics are adjusted to take account the nature of the working population in Scotland and England, there is no excess of major injuries in Scotland and the difference in fatal injury rates is almost entirely explained; however the number of Scottish fatal accidents is relatively small which makes it difficult to draw conclusions from individual years - but the overall trend is downwards.
The research confirms that the priorities for the industry are much the same from The Lizard to Muckle Flugga, but gives a number of pointers to where we in Scotland may need to address extra effort; and we will do this over the coming months.