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North West council fined £300k after child fell three metres through railings

Cheshire West and Chester Council was last month fined £300,000 after a young child fell almost three metres to the floor from a gap in railings, sustaining serious head injuries.

Chester Magistrates’ Court heard how on 16 November 2018, a family was visiting Chester City centre to watch the Christmas parade.

The Health and Safety Executive said that while standing at a viewing point on The Rows at Bridge Street, the 21-month-old girl fell through a gap in the railings onto the floor below, resulting in a fracture to her skull.

The HSE said its investigation found that one of the spindles on the railings had been missing since at least May 2017, leading to a significant gap (22cm) in the physical protection of the railings on The Rows.

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It found that the council had failed to ensure that The Rows were maintained to prevent a risk of a fall from height. “No risk assessment or risk control measures were put in place for members of the public and employees accessing or working on The Rows before the incident occurred.”

It added that the council had failed to provide adequate information, instruction and training to ensure employees understood the risks associated with a lack of maintenance of the Rows.

Cheshire West and Chester pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay costs of £5,607.40.

HSE Inspector Emily Osborne said after the hearing: “Councils have a duty to adequately assess and control risks to members of the public, and maintain structures for which they are responsible.

“A child suffered serious injury as a result of what was an easily preventable incident if the risk had been identified and correct action taken to prevent a fall.”

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