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HOARDING COLLAPSE TRAPPED TWENTY SHOPPERS

Fit-out firm failed to erect fit for purpose site fencing

Oracle Interiors Ltd has been fined after shoppers were crushed when a site hoarding collapsed in the heart of Oxford Street London less than 24 hours after the structure was erected in March 2012.

Four people were injured, three seriously, in the incident including 25 year-old Charlotte Hammond who sustained an open fracture of her right ankle that required extensive surgery.

The over 3m high hoarding weighed almost 1 tonne and was erected the day before the incident to fence off refurbishment works being undertaken in a clothing store.

Westminster Magistrates heard (3 Dec) the hoarding was held in place by a single timber brace. It was inherently weak and was not designed or installed to sufficiently withstand gusts of wind or knocks from passing shoppers. Both factors should have been included in the assessment, design and construction.

It was estimated that 20 people were trapped by the hoarding when it collapsed although most managed to escape unharmed as emergency crews and fellow passers-by rushed to help.

Injuries sustained by the other victims included broken bones in the back and crushed nerves in an arm.

Innocent shoppers traumatised

Oracle Interiors Ltd, of Salisbury, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £13,069 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Wendy Garnett commented:

“The law clearly states that all temporary structures, including hoardings, are properly designed, and so installed to withstand any foreseeable loads imposed on it.

That clearly wasn’t the case on this occasion and innocent shoppers were subjected to a frightening and, for some, hugely traumatic ordeal that had a long-term impact.

Charlotte and others could easily have been killed by the hoarding and they were completely unaware that it posed a risk – not only to them, but to the tens of thousands of people who walked along Oxford Street that busy afternoon.

Oracle Interiors Ltd could and should have done more to prevent the collapse.”

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