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February 18, 2009

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Diner fell through hatch while entering restaurant

A diner received serious leg injuries after falling down an open hatch at a London restaurant.

Dr Mohan Gopal had decided to have breakfast with his family at Le Pain Quotidien restaurant, in West London, on 9 July 2007, ahead of a planned flight to India. The restaurant was receiving a goods delivery and had left open a floor hatch in order for the goods to be stored in the basement.

The hatch had been left unattended and when Dr Gopal entered the premises he through the opening and fell approximately five metres on to a partially raised scissor lift, before again falling a similar distance onto the storeroom floor. As a result of the accident he tore the ligaments in one of his knees and was rushed to hospital, which caused him to miss his flight.

The restaurant’s owner, Village du Pain Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 at Blackfriars Crown Court on 23 January 2009. The firm was fined £12,500 and ordered to pay £7500 compensation to Dr Gopal and costs of £7000.

In mitigation, the company accepted full responsibility for the accident and admitted that the hatch should not have been left unattended. It also stated that there was a suitable risk assessment in place but staff had failed to follow these requirements. As a result, it has now trained staff about how to use the hatch safely and has made improvements to the hatch, which allow the scissor lift to be flush with the floor when fully extended.

Kensington and Chelsea environmental health officer, Tracey Muzyka, told SHP: “This incident could easily have resulted in a fatality if the scissor lift had not broken Dr Gopal’s fall. The hatch should not have been left unattended and there should have been barriers, cones and signage in place. The accident could have been avoided if these measures had been implemented.”

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