Earls Court and Unusual fined over H&S breach

Wednesday, 22 October 2003
UK - Earls Court Ltd and Unusual Rigging Ltd have been fined a total of £100,000 at the Old Bailey following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution into the death of 26-year-old David Mott at Earls Court, London. The prosecution follows an HSE investigation into the incident in which Mr Mott fell 35m to his death at Earls Court Exhibition Hall 1, on 23 June 2000. Six months prior to the death of Mr Mott, another worker had also been killed in a similar incident. Earls Court Ltd was subsequently fined £70,000 in a prosecution taken by the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Mr Mott, from Brentwood, Essex, fell through fragile, false ceiling tiles while dismantling mobile platforms as part of a refurbishment project. He was taken to Charing Cross hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival from multiple injuries.

Earls Court Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) at the City of London Magistrates' Court on 21 May 2003 and was subsequently fined £80,000 with £12,173.95 costs at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London on 3 October 2003. Unusual Rigging Ltd also pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of HSWA at the City of London Magistrates' Court on 21 May 2003 and was subsequently fined £20,000 with £12,173.95 costs at the Central Criminal Court, Old Bailey, London on 3 October 2003.

Section 3(1) of the HSWA requires employers to ensure that persons not in their employment are not exposed to risks to their health or safety.

Unusual Rigging has pointed out to PLASA Media that during his summing up, the judge had stipulated that there was no link between the breaches under HSWA for which Unusual Rigging was prosecuted and the tragic accident that subsequently occurred.

A statement from Earls Court, issued to PLASA Media, says: "The death of David Mott was a tragic accident and our thoughts remain with his family and friends. We believe the fine levied on Earls Court Ltd to be tough, but fair in light of factors brought out by the Judge in determining levels of responsibility for this incident."

In his summing up, Judge Graham Boal said: "For some reason which will probably be never fully explained, Mr Mott left the comparative safety of 'the catwalk' and ventured out on to what was in effect a false ceiling which could not, and did not, bear his weight. He did so without having properly attached his safety harness to anything which could ensure he did not fall."

Judge Boal continued: "The deceased was an experienced rigger who was being properly supervised while he carried out the work he was engaged in and might reasonably have been expected not to tread on a ceiling tile and not to venture on to anything other than the catwalk without a securely fastened safety harness."

Earls Court says: "Safety at Earls Court, especially in an acknowledged high-risk activity such as rigging, was then and is now our top priority. We have invested millions of pounds in both active and passive safety measures, together with extensive training and access restrictions to regulate activity in the roof void.

Indeed the Judge said: "Each [company - Earls Court and Unusual Rigging Ltd] has done, since this unhappy event, all that has been asked of it to ensure, as far as can possibly be achieved where human beings are concerned, that there is no repetition of this tragedy. Most important of all perhaps is the fact that I am fully persuaded that the failures each defendant admitted were in no way attributable to cost-cutting or an ethos of putting profit before safety."

Earls Court's spokesperson added: "This case has brought home to us that it is not possible to anticipate all human behaviour. However, we have worked hard and will continue to work hard to ensure the safety of anyone working in Earls Court."

(Sarah Rushton-Read)

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