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Council successfully prosecutes hotels group after guest sustains life-changing injuries in rusted railings fall

Image showing damaged railings
Damaged railings

Sefton Council has successfully prosecuted Britannia Hotels after a guest at its Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport sustained life-changing injuries due to falling through rusted iron railings.

Fiona Townsend, the Council’s Senior Lawyer told Sefton Magistrates Court that the railings to prevent people falling down the 6ft drop to the basement lightwells were missing in one location and badly corroded in numerous other areas. The Council had issued an improvement notice after the Company failed to make the area safe with suitable fencing over three weeks after the incident.

Hazard

She said: “Britannia Hotels could not demonstrate that a system was in place to check and maintain the iron railing regularly. Its risk assessments failed to address the hazard of a fall from height as happened to guest Deborah Henshall and did not refer to the iron railings.

“The company fell short of the appropriate safety and the systems it had in place were not sufficiently adhered to or implemented. It had failed to make appropriate changes following prior incident and had allowed breaches to continue over a long period.

“This led to the incident, which has had a substantial and long-term effect on the Ms Henshall’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities or on their ability to return to work.

Fractures

In a Victim Statement, Deborah Henshall told the court after a full body scan at Aintree Hospital she was told she had two spinal fractures, a broken left big toe and blood on her lungs due to the sternum and rib fractures. She had also sustained a head injury, concussion and trauma.

She said she was distressed over how her life has changed since the accident, before which she was working two jobs. In her statement she wrote that she had been off work since the accident had lost both jobs and is currently on Universal Credit and personal independent payments.

‘I am still suffering everyday with severe pain,’ she wrote. ‘I used to be a very outgoing and very social within my group of friends and family this accident has caused me so much pain and distress that I feel will never back to the person I was before this accident.’

Risk

Fining Britannia Hotels £80,000  and awarding costs of £6821.92, District Judge Wendy Lloyd said: “I take both Britannia’s previously good character and guilty plea into account, but others were exposed to risk of falling into the light-well, a number of people were potentially at risk.

“I extend great sympathy to Ms Henshall. This amount is in no way a representation of what I think her injury is worth. This is a fine on health and safety failings.”

Consequences

Afterwards, Fiona Townsend said: “Sefton Council is always keen to work with businesses to provide help and advice on how they can maintain health and safety.

“But, as this case shows, we will also take action where health and safety standards are not maintained, particularly when this failing has had serious consequences.”