Shoppers were crushed when a large hoarding collapsed in the heart of Oxford Street less than 24 hours after it had been erected, a court has heard.
Four people were injured, three seriously, in the incident on 7 March 2012. They included 25 year-old Charlotte Hammond, from Romford, who sustained an open fracture of her right ankle that required extensive surgery.
The hoarding, which was some 3.6m high and weighed nearly a tonne, had been put up the previous day by Wiltshire-based Oracle Interiors Ltd to fence off a clothing store that was being refurbished.
The shopfitting firm was prosecuted yesterday (3 December) after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious flaws with the temporary structure.
Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard the hoarding was held in place by a single timber brace. As such it was inherently weak and wasn’t designed or installed to sufficiently withstand gusts of wind or knocks from passing shoppers, both of which should have been factored in.
An estimated 20 people were trapped by the hoarding when it came down, although most managed to escape unharmed as emergency crews and fellow passers-by rushed to help.
Injuries sustained by the other victims, none of whom want to be identified, included broken bones in the back and crushed nerves in an arm.
Oracle Interiors Ltd, of Lysander Way, 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, should be properly designed, and so installed as to withstand any foreseeable loads imposed on them.
“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.”
Further information on properly planning and organising temporary works, including hoardings, can be found on the HSE website at www.hse.gov.uk/construction.
Notes to Editors:
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
- Regulation 28(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 states: “All practicable steps shall be taken, where necessary to prevent danger to any person, to ensure that any new or existing structure or any part of such structure which may become unstable or in a temporary state of weakness or instability due to the carrying out of construction work does not collapse.”