Shoppers were forced to run for safety when scaffolding put up by a Desborough firm collapsed and fell some 20 metres towards them, a court heard.
Nobody was hurt, but several people needed treatment for shock as a result of the accident at Willow Place shopping centre in Corby on August 17, 2012.
Desborough Scaffolding, of Desborough, was prosecuted on Monday (December 16) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation established that the scaffold was structurally unsound.
Northampton Magistrates’ Court was told that debris netting had been fitted to the scaffolding tubes, but in high winds on the day it acted as a sail and caused the structure to pull away and apart, sending metal poles and other materials raining to the ground below.
The falling scaffolding smashed through shop canopies below and also pulled down signs.
Several businesses were forced to close while the clean-up took place and the area was made safe.
The HSE investigation found the scaffold had not been put up in a way to ensure it would remain stable, and had not been designed by a competent person to ensure it had adequate strength and rigidity for the purpose and environment it was to be used in.
Desborough Scaffolding, of Stoke Albany Road, 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.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Sam Russell said: “It was sheer luck that no-one was seriously injured or killed as a result of this totally preventable incident.
“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.”