MARK DANIELS - Adviser on visitor and occupational health and safety at historic buildings, parks, gardens, coast and countryside

News archive January 2014

13th January 2014

Carriage owner sentenced to community service after fatal accident at country fair

The owner of a horse and carriage ride has been sentenced to 200 hours of community service after a woman died as a result of being struck by a runaway horse at a Suffolk country fair. The woman was attending Nowton Park Country Fair in Bury St Edmunds in June 2011 when she was hit by the horse and driverless carriage as they careered through a crowd. She suffered severe chest injuries and died the next day in hospital.

Ipswich Crown Court heard today (13 January 2014) that the horse’s bridle had been removed after a day providing rides for the public at the fair. Soon afterwards, something startled the animal and it bolted, hitting Mrs Bullet and injuring several other visitors to the fair.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted St Edmundsbury Borough Council and the owner and operator of the horse and carriage. HSE found that the owner had met with the council a few days before the event to discuss the operation of the horse and carriage rides, but that the control measures which he put in place on the day were not adequate to ensure the safety of the public. In particular, he had not ensured that his staff were adequately trained and qualified to operate the horse and carriages safely, or that there was a safe system of work on the day including keeping the rides safely segregated from the visitors of the fair.

The owner was sentenced to community service after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. St Edmundsbury Borough Council was found not guilty of the same breach at an earlier hearing.

After sentencing, an HSE Inspector said:
“This incident was entirely preventable. Because the owner failed to take the necessary safety precautions, one woman needlessly lost her life and a number of others were injured. Horse and carriage rides can be run safely provided the proper control measures are in place. It is vital that operators are adequately trained and assessed before they are allowed to operate a ride in public. It is also vital that adequate risk assessments are carried out, and the ride is safely segregated from the public."

The British Driving Society offers guidelines on working with horses in harness, including how to operate rides safely. The guidelines can be found at: http://www.britishdrivingsociety.co.uk/training/Education%20Leaflet%20Final.pdf

14th January 2014
English Heritage receives Crown Censure after failure of glass floor panel in castle

English Heritage has accepted a Crown Censure, equivalent to a criminal prosecution, for safety failings after a 12-year-old boy was badly cut when a glass floor panel broke during a family visit to Yarmouth Castle on the Isle of Wight.

The youngster was with his brother and two friends in the exhibition room when he deliberately jumped on a glass viewing panel set into the floor, designed to show a carved stone statue beneath. HSE’s investigation showed two of the young boys had jumped on the panel before the 12-year-old said he would also do so to prove it would not break.

The panel, which had been in place for many years and walked on by thousands of people over that time, splintered into shards and the boy suffered severe lacerations to his left leg from the jagged glass.

The incident, in September 2011, was investigated by HSE which formally administered a Crown Censure of English Heritage for failing to take reasonable steps to protect members of the public from risk. This is the first censure recorded against English Heritage since its inception 30 years ago.

HSE found the glass floor panel broke because it was not made of toughened or laminated glass. English Heritage had not specifically assessed the risk of glass floor panels breaking at its properties, although there had been regular visual inspections of the glass panels which would have identified any obvious damage.

After the incident, English Heritage took immediate action to cover all similar glass floor panels whose strength could not be determined easily, or cordoned off the panel area and used warning signs to alert the public. It also identified and recorded the location of glass floor panels and low-level glass wall panels in all its properties and ensured they were safe. It has also taken action to notify other interested heritage organisations.

HSE’s Head of Operations in the South East said:
“This was an absence of any proper identification and assessment of the risks posed by glass floor panels to visitors and members of the public, coupled with a failure to install the correct type of glass such as toughened or laminated glass. It was completely foreseeable that a tourist site attracting school groups could lead to children walking or jumping on glass floor panels – that is just the nature of children. Indeed the same thing could have happened to any adult who might have slipped or fallen heavily on one of these panels.”

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