Contracting firm fined after pensioners hurt by falling hoarding

A Sheffield building contracting firm has been fined and ordered to pay compensation after two pensioners were hurt by falling hoarding last year.

The accident on 22 February 2012 occurred when contractors working for Gary Bluff Projects Ltd, who had been contracted to refurbish a restaurant at Highcross shopping centre in Leeds, failed to construct hoarding to a proper standard. On that day there were high winds and this resulted in the hoarding – which had not been properly designed – being blown off the metal fencing it was attached to. Part of the hoarding blew over and hit an elderly couple, knocking them over and causing them to suffer from shock. The pensioners were then treated at hospital. The accident was subsequently notified to the Health and Safety Executive and an investigation of the matter was undertaken. This investigation resulted in a recommendation that the company be prosecuted for a breach of statutory duty, namely breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

The Leicester magistrates court heard on 30 April 2013 that the company had failed to construct the hoarding to a sufficiently proper standard and that this had resulted in injury to two passers-by. The magistrates found that the company was in breach of Regulation 25(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 as the company had failed to carry out the construction work in a manner that would prevent harm being suffered by a worker or a third party in matters that were under his control or relate to matters that were under his control.  The magistrates court therefore fined the company £6,000 (after they had pleaded guilty to the breach), ordered the company to pay £6,735 in costs and a total of £500 in compensation to the two persons injured by the accident.

The Health and Safety Executive commented after the hearing that “the company had a duty to its workforce and members of the public to ensure the hoarding around the restaurant was safe. It failed to design the hoarding in such a way that it could withstand high winds… this couple were lucky not to have been more seriously injured”.

Chris Hadrill, employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case that “this is yet another case which demonstrates that attention to detail regarding health and safety in the workplace is absolutely imperative to prevent injuries to workers or to any third party – a failure to uphold adequate health and safety standards not only can result in a criminal prosecution and a heavy fine but it may adversely affect the health and safety of others”.