A local authority has been fined after a young child fell almost three metres to the floor from a gap in railings, sustaining serious head injuries.
On 16 November 2018, a family was visiting Chester City centre to watch the Christmas parade. While standing at a viewing point on The Rows at Bridge Street, their 21-month-old daughter fell through a gap in the railings onto the floor below, fracturing to her skull.
Chester Magistrates’ Court was told that one of the spindles on the railings had been missing for at least 18 months, leading to a significant gap (22cm) in the physical protection of the railings on The Rows.
Cheshire West and Chester Council failed to ensure that The Rows were maintained to prevent a risk of a fall from height. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigators said no risk assessment or risk control measures were put in place for members of the public and employees accessing or working on The Rows before the incident occurred. The local authority failed to provide adequate information, instruction and training to ensure employees understood the risks associated with a lack of maintenance of the Rows.
'Councils have a duty to adequately assess and control risks to members of the public, and maintain structures for which they are responsible,' said HSE inspector Emily Osborne.
Cheshire West and Chester Council admitted breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was ordered to pay a fine of £300,000 plus £5607 costs.
Speaking to IOSH magazine, councillor Carol Gahan, cabinet member for legal and finance, said immediately after the incident a full risk assessment of Chester Rows was carried out and repairs to all defects on Chester Rows, including those not owned by the council, were completed at the council’s expense. There is now also a quarterly inspection and arrangements for carrying out repairs to the Rows in place.
'A full review of the judgment will be undertaken by the council’s governance board to ensure all lessons learnt from the accident are understood throughout the council,' she added. 'The council is also undertaking a full refresh of its health and safety culture.'
The council is also providing IOSH training for directors, senior managers and supervisors.