The prosecution of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), as the result of an investigation by the HSE following a terrible and avoidable accident, has brought to attention the importance and responsibility of building maintenance in keeping people safe.
The recent prosecution of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) is a surprise. I note the recent press report of a young man, Mr Maclean, who sustained horrific injuries in an accident that occurred last year. Our best wishes go to Mr Maclean in what we hope is as good a recovery as possible.
Mr Maclean fell through a set of doors that opened into a lift shaft and then fell approximately 20 feet to the end of the lift shaft.
The doors do not appear to have been protected in any way. It would appear from the press story that I have read that the doors had not been opened for some considerable time.
It is right, albeit unfortunate, that a prosecution is brought in such circumstances. The whole purpose of the prosecution is not just to penalise those who caused an injury and distress to an innocent party, but also to provide an indication to others that they have to check their public places, those areas where people have access to and to make sure that they do not have a lift shaft or a door that could be easily opened leading to a potential hazard.
The point of the matter is that these sorts of accidents in public places should not occur.
I appreciate the same could almost be said of any accident - in particular road traffic accidents where a momentary lapse in concentration can lead to significant injuries - but even more so in organisations who ought to have a clear health and safety policy. Such organisations should try and maintain and, at the very least, check their buildings on a regular basis.
If this had been a simple accident, despite the severity of Mr Maclean’s injuries, I have little doubt that the HSE would have thought twice about any prosecution. Given the accident’s circumstances, it cannot be a surprise to anyone that a prosecution would follow.
I am always pleased when I read that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has succeeded in a further prosecution. I make this comment not wishing in any way to sound vindictive about those who are the subject of a prosecution.
Instead, I have feared for some time that the HSE will be severely restricted in what they can do - given the on-going Government cutbacks which are gradually becoming more extreme. The HSE are hard pressed at the best of times. They do their best in writing reports, attending at the scene of sometimes horrific accidents and pursuing prosecutions.
For further information, see our previous blog: What if Someone is Injured on my Business Premises?
Tristan Hallam is a Practice Group Leader at Slater and Gordon Lawyers, specialising in Occupiers and Public Liability.
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