Scottish local council fined £80k for pensioner’s death
A 90-year-old woman suffered fatal injuries after falling through an access hole in her hallway floor during renovation work, which was being carried out by council employees.
Livingston Sheriff Court heard West Lothian Council was undertaking upgrade work on central-heating systems at all of its domestic properties. On 2 July 2009, the council started work at the home of Catherine Walker in Broompark View, East Calder. The work involved fitting new radiators, pipework, a boiler, and electrical control systems. As the pipework runs under the floors, the workmen needed to lift the floorboards in the property.
During the work, Mrs Walker walked into the hallway to go to the bathroom, and she fell into an unguarded access hole. She later died in hospital from her injuries.
HSE inspector Garry Stimpson revealed the council had failed to put in place adequate edge protection to prevent the incident. He said: “This tragedy could have been avoided. The council employees should have covered the access hole, or erected a barrier around it – this would have ensured the safety of Mrs Walker.
“Those working on central-heating systems in a residential property must ensure that suitable and sufficient measures are taken to protect the residents.”
West Lothian Council appeared in court on 24 January and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 and was fined £80,000. No costs are awarded in Scotland.
Following the hearing, a council spokesperson said: “The council unreservedly apologises for the failure that led to Mrs Walker’s death. This tragic incident has been treated with the utmost seriousness, and the council cooperated fully with the HSE’s investigation.
“The council has worked in liaison with the HSE to review and implement actions and to ensure that everything practicable is done to carry out work safely in all circumstances. The council understands that the HSE is satisfied with the actions taken.”
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