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

News archive January 2015

12th January 2015

Young girl seriously injured in fall from height through a wooden fence - Chessington World of Adventures fined £150,000

Chessington World of Adventures Operations Ltd. has been fined £150,000 for safety failings after a four-year-old girl suffered severe head injuries when she fell nearly 13ft (4 metres) while queuing for a ride.

The girl fell from a raised walkway as she waited in line for the Tomb Blaster ride at the Surrey theme park on 7 June 2012. She was in hospital for a month with injuries including a fractured skull, bleeding to the brain and broken ribs, and still needs extensive rehabilitation and specialist support.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the girl had fallen through a gap in a wooden fence, and identified that a rotting paling in the fence had fallen out on the morning of the girl’s fall. It found that the whole fence showed evidence of serious weakening, with water dripping from a roof having rotted wooden fence posts. There was evidence that numerous palings had been repaired over the years, indicating that there was a recurrent problem. HSE also found that the operator did not have an adequate system of checking or inspecting the fencing or a maintenance process to ensure faults were remedied.

An HSE inspector said: “Quite simply, Chessington had insufficient measures in place to prevent or control the risk of falling from the raised walkway in the first place, and this was not just a couple of feet from the ground but nearly four metres. This incident shows the importance of implementing robust systems for checking and maintaining all aspects of rides, and this includes the walkways and fencing associated with queueing and where people gather.”

The firm was fined £150,000 and told to pay over £21,000 in costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

More details in HSE's press release and in other news sources:

The holding company, Merlin Entertainments, operates a number of large visitor attractions in the UK and overseas, including Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle, Legoland, Madame Tussauds and Chessington World of Adventures. Warwick Castle was the subject of a prosecution by Warwick District Council in 2012 following a visitor's fatal fall, while in 2013 Legoland was prosecuted by HSE for breaches of the Work at Height Regulations.