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FALL FROM SCHOOL LOFT AREA PROMPTS PROSECUTION

Verbal warning of hazard no substitute for simple preventive measures

Wells Cathedral School in Somerset has been fined after an employee fell when a loft hatch she stood on collapsed in July 2011

Magistrates heard that the loft could be accessed by a door from an office and by ladder in the library. On turning to leave the loft the injured person stepped onto the hatch, which gave way, causing her to fall to the library below.

The court heard that a colleague had been warned by a facilities officer not to stand on the loft hatch which would not support the weight of a person. The injured worker heard the warning did not “take in the information” as she did not plan to go into the loft at the time.

HSE investigators found the school had recognised the risk but no measures were in place to prevent members of staff stepping onto the loft hatch.

Simple measures not taken to prevent incident

Wells Cathedral School Ltd, of The Liberty, Wells, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £7,700 and £2,172 in costs.

HSE inspector James Lucas, who brought the prosecution, said after the sentencing:

“A member of the school’s staff suffered a serious injury when she fell through the hatch, and the consequences could have been far worse.

The school was obviously aware of the risk, as staff had been warned not to step on the hatch, and yet it failed to take simple measures to prevent such an incident occurring.

The hatch didn’t even need to be there as there was another form of access through the door on the same level. In the aftermath of the incident, the school boarded over the loft hatch, preventing anyone else falling through it, which is sensible but a little too late in this case.”

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