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POWER DOOR INSTALLER JAILED FOR THREE YEARS

Falling electrically powered gate claimed life of resident

A 52 year old man has been jailed (30/10/17) for gross negligence manslaughter following the death of Jill Lunn, aged 56, at her home April 2013 when she became trapped under a powered gate which became detached from rails.

Norwich Crown Court heard that the prosecution followed a joint investigation by Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk County Council’s Trading Standards team and the Health and Safety Executive.

Robert Churchyard of Turner Road, Norwich, was found guilty following a two week trial in 2016 and a retrial in September 2017. He has now been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

Critical stop not fitted by defendant

The gate had been fitted by Churchyard on behalf of Automated Garage Doors & Gates Ltd at the beginning of March 2013. Jill had been shown how to operate the gate but on several occasions it had failed to work in its electrically powered mode because the optical safety device fitted had come out of alignment, disabling the electric drive.

On 17 April 2013, Jill Lunn had driven to the front of the house through the gate which failed to close behind her. She then attempted to close the gate manually. Mr Churchyard had not fitted a ‘stop’ to keep the gate on the rails and it fell trapping her and causing fatal injuries. It later took three people to lift the gate.

Investigators found that Churchyard visited the home and surveyed the site. He had agreed that the gate would be an electric metal sliding gate for the driveway, to maximize the car parking area at the front of the house. However, he did not leave an instruction book or operating manual for the gate with the family.

When the gate failed for the first time on 22 March 2013, it had to be opened manually and when Churchyard visited a few days later he told the family there was a problem with the optical electronic safety devices and he re-aligned them. The gates then failed again on the day of her death.

Company failed in their duty

The investigation also revealed that the company Mr Churchyard worked for had manufactured and installed an unsafe machine i.e, the automated gate. The company failed to provide any safety mechanism to prevent the gate from falling and a simple ‘shoe’ stop, or bracket installed at the end of the track for the gate to slide into would have prevented this incident.

A complete technical file, which demonstrates how the machine meets the necessary safety standards, had not been produced as part of the installation process. As well as a legal requirement, generating the file would have identified the safety deficiencies in the installation.

  • Automated Garage Doors & Gates Ltd, of Sweet Briar Road Industrial Estate, Norwich pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to three charges under Regulation 7 of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008. The company was also sentenced today (Monday 30 October 2017) and fined £12,000.

Detective Sergeant Darren Reade from Great Yarmouth CID, who conducted the police investigation, welcomed the sentence saying:

“Jill’s death should never have happened. If Churchyard had undertaken all the safety work expected of him then she would have been protected from the gate breaking in such a way. By claiming that the family themselves had removed the stop he lied about fitting he caused further distress to her family. I hope that this outcome prevents a similar tragedy from happening in the future. ”

Health and Safety Executive Inspector Edward Crick said:

“This case is a stark demonstration of what happens when companies do not comply with the relevant legislation relating to the safety of machinery. The industry must learn from the tragic death of Jill Lunn so no other family suffers the same loss. There is plenty of guidance available to help businesses ensure they put in place the basic safeguards and provide their customers with the necessary information to operate them safely.”

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