Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

September 14, 2015

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Council sentenced after unsecured barrier fatally injures father

North Lincolnshire Council has been ordered to pay £200,000 after a man died when his car drove into a horizontal swing barrier gate, in the car park of a Scunthorpe sports ground.

The council’s defence stated that “Never before in its (the council) history has it been prosecuted for any safety offence and never in these grave circumstances.”

Hull Crown Court heard how, in August 2012, Andrew Matthews, aged 51 and a father of two, had gone to Foxhills sports ground to watch his son play football. The horizontal barrier had been opened earlier, but was not secured so it swung into a dangerous position.

As Mr Matthews drove his car towards the gate, the horizontal end section of the barrier went through the windscreen striking him on the head, causing fatal injuries.

Prosecutor Samuel Green said that a passer-by had reported concerns about the barrier to the Council prior to the incident on 8 August 2012, but “nothing had been done”.

Adding that: “The protruding end of the barrier should never have been pointed in the direction of the oncoming vehicles.

“The prosecution’s position is the risk was stark and had been foreseen.”

Judge Jeremy Richardson QC described the incident as a tragedy beyond compare.

North Lincolnshire Council, of Ashby Road, Scunthorpe, North Lincolnshire was fined a total of £160,000, and ordered to pay £40,476 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

HSE principal inspector Chris Gallagher said of the case: “The tragic loss of Mr Matthew’s life was a horrific incident that could so easily have been avoided. The barrier should have been secured whilst it was open so that it could not swing into his path in such a way that he was unable to see it as he drove towards it.

“A significant number of people have been killed or injured in incidents involving horizontal swing barriers in car parks used in retail, leisure and industrial premises. Duty holders should carry out a suitable risk assessment so that potential dangers are identified and suitable precautions are put in place. These include making sure such barriers can be locked open and shut to suitable fixing posts preferably with a padlock so they cannot swing open and present an impalement risk ”

Simon Antrobus, mitigating, said Simon Driver, the chief executive of North Lincolnshire Council, expressed his “deep and sincere apology” at the breach in this case and the loss of Mr Matthews’ life.

He added that the incident had a profound effect on the council which had made “wide-ranging changes” since the incident.

Since the incident the gate has been changed, so that it now opens in to the car park, rather than outwards towards the direction of those entering it.

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