March 2020: The company responsible for the installation of a manual sliding gate at a primary school, which fell on a nine-year old girl, has been handed a £18,000 fine and ordered to pay court costs of £1,147.
The incident occurred in May 2018 at a school in South West London. The large single leaf steel sliding gate (which measured 5.2 metres wide and 1.77 metres high) derailed as a result of ‘unsuitable, insufficient’ end stops (stopping devices) causing it to fall onto the young girl who suffered multiple pelvic fractures. It is believed that the child only survived the accident as a result of the cushioning effect of her large sports bag.
The case was brought to court by the Health and Safety Executive following its original investigation in 2018. Westminster Magistrates Court heard how Metal Art Fabrication Ltd failed to comply with Section 6 (1)a of the Health & Safety at Work Act, which requires that it is ‘the duty of any person who designs, manufactures, imports or supplies any article for use at work … to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the article is so designed and constructed that it will be safe and without risks to health at all times when it is being set, used, cleaned or maintained by a person at work’.
The prosecution advised that the tragedy could have easily been prevented by means of a simple stopping device either to the gate or to the support posts.
The company was fined after it pleaded guilty to not complying with the requirements stated within the Health & Safety at Work regulations.
Commenting on the fine, Gate Safe founder Richard Jackson says, “This is yet another totally avoidable incident which could have so easily resulted in a far more sinister outcome. It highlights the importance of understanding what constitutes a safe and legal gate installation – whether it is manual or automatic – and should serve as a reminder to all those involved in the installation or maintenance of such heavy sliding gates that they will be held accountable for their actions in the event of an accident. Schools are supposed to represent a safe haven for our children and parents need to be reassured that steps are being taken to ensure that this type of accident does not reoccur. We urge all professionals working in the automated and manual gate sector to ensure they have undergone the relevant training. First and foremost, to avoid any further tragedies occurring, but also to safeguard their reputation and business from the serious financial and legal repercussions of an accident. We are meeting with the Department for Education later this month to discuss how best to avoid any future gate related accidents in schools.”
Sarah Whittle, representing HM Inspector of Health & Safety, Field Operations Directorate London, Southern Division, who was responsible for bringing the case to court said, “This case underpins the need for all companies involved in the installation of heavy sliding gates, to recognise that they have a duty of care to ensure the continued safety of all persons using the gate. This means that they must take the recommended steps to ensure that gates have suitable support posts and end stops to prevent them from falling. Thankfully in this case, the child has made a full recovery, but the outcome could easily have been much more serious.”