A toddler escaped with minor injuries after a 17-metre-wide shopping hoarding collapsed on him at a Merseyside shopping centre.
The two-year-old was with his father and grandparents when the incident took place at the Racecourse Retail Park at Aintree on 29 September 2008. The 2.4-metre-high hoarding had been erected outside a shop, which was being fitted-out before opening to the public as a new store. As the family walked past the store a gust of wind caused the hoardings to overturn and land on them, leaving them with cuts and bruises.
Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard that Wates Construction Ltd had contracted Dean Lotwick to build the hoardings. The HSE’s investigation found that the hoardings had not been properly designed and, as a result, could not withstand wind.
Wates Construction and Lotwick appeared in court on 6 October and both pleaded guilty to breaching reg.28 (2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, for failing to ensure the hoardings were properly designed. The company was fined £4000 and ordered to pay £5273 in costs. Lotwick was fined £4000 and £6963 towards costs.
Wates health and safety director, Neil Edmunds, told SHP that the firm has learned from the incident. He said: “We regret the harm and suffering this incident caused to the family. At Wates, safety is a core value and we fully cooperated with the HSE, undertaking a thorough internal investigation.
“The incident was the result of a breakdown in our procedures and not a systemic omission. The learnings have now been fully incorporated into our procedures and training arrangements.”
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Jones said: “What should have been a pleasurable day out turned into an unpleasant and frightening experience for this family. Not only did they sustain injuries, but I can imagine that the panic they experienced when their baby disappeared under the hoarding would have been considerable.
“It is important that those involved in construction recognise that temporary works, such as hoardings, are properly designed by competent people and built to the agreed design. This clearly didn’t happen in this case and the result of this was an incident which could have easily been prevented.”
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