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September 27, 2005

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Premiership football club failed to act on Council’s safety advice

Bolton Wanderers Football Club has been fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £9695 in full costs after a boy riding a motorcycle was killed in a car park at the club’s ground.

Bolton Crown Court heard on 6 September that 14-year-old Christopher Ormesher had been taken to the Reebok Stadium car park on 31 August 2003 by his parents to practice riding his 125cc motorcycle. The teenager was riding the vehicle along a central access road in the car park when he collided with an unmarked metal chain strung across the road that was difficult to see.

The chain rode up the fairing of the motorcycle and caught under the boy’s chin, severing his windpipe and spinal cord and propelling him 30 metres along the road, causing further injuries to his head, arms and legs. He died almost instantly.

In a prosecution brought by Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council’s health and safety unit, the company pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a breach of s3(1) of HSWA 1974 in failing to ensure the safety of non-employees.

Sentencing, Judge Clayson said the football club had fallen short of the required standard and that the breach of the HSWA had led to the death of Christopher Ormesher.

Investigating officer for Bolton Council, Graham Olive, told SHP there had been long-term problems with the car park at the Club. “The company knew that motorcyclists were using the car park illegally and I had asked it to do something about safety on many occasions over the past four or five years.”

There had been two previous incidents of vehicles hitting the same chain – in May 2003 and December 2002. Although the company had agreed to put up large high-visibility chevron boards over the chain and take other safety measures, it had failed to do so.

“On the day of the accident, the company had not barriered the road off, it had not put up the chevron boards, and the chain had been put back as it was with no markings on it,” Mr Olive said.

The company said in mitigation that it had spent a lot of money on health and safety; it had entered an early guilty plea; and at the time of the incident the car park was being used unlawfully because the boy was trespassing.

Mr Olive commented to SHP: “This case highlights how important it is for all businesses to act on advice given by inspectors. In this case, failure to act in a timely manner resulted in the death of a 14-year-old boy.”

He pointed out that, in general, the Council’s health and safety unit often has problems with people not doing what they are advised. “We will advise them and tell them to do things, but we end up having to chase them up. They think that if they ignore us, we will go away, but we won’t,” Mr Olive emphasised.


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