A landowner has been jailed for nine months for failing to comply with enforcement notices, which required him to put edge protection around a hillside car park.
In February 2008 the HSE received a complaint from a member of the public that a site in The Burrows, St Ives, was being used as a car park near the edge of a valley slope, with a steep 30-metre drop to houses below.
The HSE visited the site, which was owned by Nicholas Andrew Eastwood, and found that the site was split into three sections. The land was located next to Mr Eastwood’s home. The lower part of the site was being used as a car park and there were no barriers to prevent cars, or pedestrians from accessing the edge of the slope.
An adjacent area of land, which was also being used as a car park, was found to be similarly lacking in edge protection. The final part of the site was on higher land and this was being used as a compound for a construction company. Here, too, there were no barriers in place to stop the firm working close to the edge of the slope.
Inspectors issued a Prohibition Notice to Eastwood, which required him to prevent parking within five metres of the slope edge. Two Improvement Notices were also issued requiring edge protection to be put in place around the valley edge of the lower car park, and for a geographical survey to be carried out at the site as there was evidence of subsidence around the edge.
The HSE also issued a Prohibition Notice to Eastwood’s son, Nicholas Colin Eastwood, as he was responsible for managing the middle car park and the part of the site housing the construction company’s compound. The notice required barriers to be put in place five metres away from the edge in both areas.
When the inspectors returned in June 2008 they found that, although his son had abided by the Prohibition Notice, Nicholas Andrew Eastwood had not taken any action to comply with the notices issued against him in respect of the lower car park. Consequently, the HSE began prosecution proceedings against him on account of his failure to comply.
Despite the prosecution hanging over him, Nicholas Andrew Eastwood continued to ignore the notices and, on 6 August 2009, emergency services were called to the site because a car was spotted hanging over the edge of the slope. Householders living below the site were evacuated while the car was removed.
Penwith District Council, now Cornwall Council, subsequently took steps to prevent members of the public from accessing the car park as the edge remained unprotected.
Nicholas Andrew Eastwood appeared at Truro Crown Court on 25 May and was given a nine-month custodial sentence after pleading guilty to breaching s3(2) and 33(1)(g) of the HSWA 1974.
In mitigation, he told the court that he had no previous safety convictions. He said he had been given conflicting advice from the HSE and the council and, as a result, was not sure of what action he was required to take. He believed that both authorities were conspiring against him, as they did not want the site to be used as a car park.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Barry Trudgian said: “As the incident in August 2009 showed, there was a very real risk of a car going over the edge of Mr Eastwood’s land, which could have had very serious consequences, not only for the driver but also for residents and members of the public passing below. By simply installing a barrier, as he was requested to do, he would have significantly reduced this risk.
“Employers who ignore these notices, and continue to put people at risk, should expect to be prosecuted.”
The Safety Conversation Podcast: Listen now!
The Safety Conversation with SHP (previously the Safety and Health Podcast) aims to bring you the latest news, insights and legislation updates in the form of interviews, discussions and panel debates from leading figures within the profession.
Find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts, subscribe and join the conversation today!