SCAFFOLD contractor Bow Scaffolding has called for wholesale changes in the way scaffold security is handled on site.
The call for tighter procedures follows a bitter dispute with a rival firm in the civil courts over a claimed 50 tonnes of equipment that went missing.
Bow regional director Paul Grant said: 'We spend around £100,000 a year on securing our equipment with unique marks and we still can't stop it leaving the site.'
Bow spent a year and a half pursuing Great Yarmouth-based Faber Developments in the civil courts, claiming conversion - wrongfully dealing in another company's goods, whether accidentally or not - after failing in its attempt to mount a criminal prosecution.
When it discovered evidence that Faber was using its equipment and failed to settle the matter amicably, Bow took out an injunction to stop Faber concealing or disposing of any of its equipment.
The matter was eventually settled out of court for a sum of around £16,000.
But Faber has strenuously contested the version of events and says it settled to stop a more costly court case.
'When Bow left the site it left a considerable amount of gear on site. Because we were still working there, we ended up with some of its scaffold, around £195 by value, nowhere near the amount Bow said, ' said Faber.
'In fact, I believe a lot of it just got thrown off the site and into a dyke at the back. We admitted that we had the £195 worth and told them they could pick it up, but they didn't. They chose to take us to court instead. But the nature of the law is that they didn't have to prove how much they had lost.'
The protracted legal action has left both parties unable to satisfactorily prove their case. Bow's Mr Grant is now calling for changes both to site practice and the law.
Bow believes sites need to be increasingly vigilant about losses, as the nature of scaffolding - which requires large volumes of similar looking components - makes it difficult for security to check all movements on and off site.
It is accepted that some scaffolding may end up in other people's hands, inadvertently or otherwise.
Mr Grant added: 'Once you are on site there is a lot of material around. You may have 50,000 items on one site, and it is impossible for security to check every bit.
You could easily lose 50 items a day without anyone noticing.'
Bow has also called for more regulation of the second-hand scaffolding market.
Mr Grant said: 'People will go to great lengths to disguise security markings.
They know there is a big market for used scaffold, with no questions asked.'
But Mr Grant also railed against the justice system.
He said: 'Scaffolding is looked upon completely differently to any other commodity by the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service.'