LOOSE boards and gaps “big enough for a man to fall through” were found on scaffolding at a Ledbury cider-making firm, a court was told.

Universal Beverages Ltd, which is owned by Heineken, is charged with exposing non-employees to risks to their safety, and with failing to ensure scaffolding was not used unless it had been checked by a competent person within seven days beforehand.

Prosecutor Adam Farrer, on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), said inspections for the scaffolding at the company’s Ledbury site between July 24 and October 1 2009 had often fallen outside the seven-day limit, in one case reaching a month between signatures on the Scaff-Tag, which records safety inspections.

And one inspection on October 1 was carried out by an unqualified member of staff from sub-contractors Central Roofing, the court was told.

Jonathan Boden did a short, 15-minute inspection from ground-level, rather than the usual full inspection which lasts about 90 minutes.

The jury were shown photographs of the scaffolding, which had been put up by Central Roofing around five new fermentation tanks, with annotations showing all of the various faults identified by the HSE the day after Mr Boden’s visit.

These included missing toe-boards, loose boards lying around, and “excessive gaps” between the scaffolding and the tanks the workers were cladding, he said.

Some of these gaps measured more than a foot wide – “big enough for a man go fall through”, he said. In evidence, Mr Farrer called Craig Brooks, who was the head of engineering at UBL in 2009, and asked him why nobody at the firm had noticed Central Roofing had not been filling out the Scaff-Tag, which would indicate inspections may not have been carried out as expected.

Mr Brooks said he understood how important the Scaff-Tag was, and said daily health and safety reviews were carried out at the site. He said he could not explain why the missing signatures on the Scaff- Tag were not picked up sooner. Defending, Peter Smith said that Universal Beverages had “relied on the expertise and professionalism of the scaffolding company.”

UBL denies the charges.

The trial continues.