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Wall collapse injury due to lack of maintenance

A member of the public suffered serious injuries when an advertising hoarding collapsed on top of him as he was walking down the street with his family. What happened and who was responsible?

A family of four, including two young children, were making their way to Catford Station in London to shelter from a storm in January 2014. A wall and advertising hoarding collapsed onto the father, knocking him unconscious. He suffered facial and skull injuries, including a fractured eye socket, and needed reconstructive surgery involving the insertion of a titanium plate into his cheek area. The whole family still suffer from mental and emotional problems as a result of the incident.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the incident found that the local authority’s property arm, GLA Land and Property Ltd (G), subcontracted the management and maintenance of this site. It found that G failed to oversee the contract properly, resulting in the wall not being maintained. The wall had developed a crack that became weaker because the advertising hoarding attached to it acted like a sail in high winds. This was not picked up because there were no arrangements in place to inspect and maintain the wall. Eventually the wall gave way and collapsed, along with the hoarding.

G pleaded guilty to failing to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of non-employees affected by its operations under s.3(1) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It was fined a total of £250,000 and ordered to pay over £14,600 in costs.

If suitable arrangements had been in place to inspect and maintain the wall near this busy train station, it could have been repaired before it became a danger to the public. The local authority failed to ensure that its subcontractor maintained the property. The wall weakened and eventually collapsed along with the advertising hoarding causing serious injuries to this unfortunate pedestrian.

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