Head teacher fined over school roof fall in Merseyside

A head teacher has been fined £20,000 for failing to ensure the safety of his students after one of them fell through a school roof on Merseyside.
John Summerfield led a group of “slightly inebriated” sixth-formers on to the roof of Sacred Heart Catholic College in Crosby, Liverpool Crown Court heard.
Student Joel Murray, 18, fell through a skylight and fractured his skull.
Summerfield, 65, was convicted of breaching the Health and Safety Act.
He was also ordered to pay costs of £22,708.
The head teacher, of Moorland Avenue, Crosby, had taken a group of 10 to 12 students on the roof to show them renovation work during an A-level results party.
He warned the pupils to avoid the skylight but Mr Murray stepped on it, fell through and landed in the corridor 8ft (2.5m) below.
As well as fracturing his skull, Mr Murray also broke his ribs, perforated an eardrum and suffered permanent damage to his eye.
The damage to his eye is likely to limit his employment options for the rest of his life, the court heard.
Kevin Donnelly, prosecuting, said: “Nobody was drunk but it is possible they were slightly affected by drink, possibly slightly inebriated.
“The very act of taking the students to that area was a breach of his duty of care.”
Patrick Cassidy, for Summerfield, said the teacher had enjoyed an “impeccable” 42-year career until his retirement following the accident.
Judge Nigel Gilmour QC, sentencing, said: “This act of isolated carelessness is not a true reflection of your distinguished career.
“It was an act of folly. You didn’t know the precise risk of the rooflight but you did know it was dangerous or at least potentially dangerous.
“This was a grave and uncharacteristic judgment which led to a pupil suffering serious injury.”
Summerfield must pay the fine and costs within six months or face up to 12 months in prison.
“Students should expect to be in a safe environment when they’re at school and look to their teachers for guidance on what is and what isn’t safe.”

Steel beam crashed through roof of office building

Two estate agents had a lucky escape when a four-metre-long metal girder fell from a crane and crashed though the roof of their office.

The steel beam fell 25 metres from the crane and smashed through three floors of Garside Waddingham estate agents in Fleet Street, Preston. The 80kg girder was one of 18 similar beams being lifted by Pocklington Steel Structures Ltd during the construction of a new hotel in an adjacent street.

The HSE’s investigation discovered that nothing had been done to stop the girders slipping through the chains that were wrapped around them, and, as a result, one of them fell and landed only feet away from two office workers.

An HSE inspector revealed that the girder would not have slipped out of the chains if shackles had been attached to holes that were drilled in the beams. He said: “It must have been terrifying for the staff on duty in the estate agents that day when they suddenly heard and then saw a steel girder crashing down next to their desks, right where the public normally stand.

“It was only by chance that the incident happened on a Saturday when fewer staff were at work, and that no members of the public were in the building at the time. For such a high lift, near to people on the ground, it is simply not good enough to wrap chains around girders, in a so-called choke hitch, without securing them.”

Pocklington Steel Structures appeared at Preston Magistrates’ Court on 29 October and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £6706 towards costs.

Poundstretcher chain pays £55,000 for fire safety breaches

National discount chain Poundstretcher Limited has been fined £51,500 and ordered to pay £3,450 costs at Leeds crown court for seven offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The offences at Poundstretcher’s Castleford store in West Yorkshire included a failure to take adequate fire precautions for its employees and other relevant people, a failure to review its fire risk assessment, emergency routes and exits blocked, and inadequate staff training.
The firm had previously pleaded guilty to the charges at Pontefract magistrates court.
 “This is the third time a prosecution has been brought in West Yorkshire,” he said. “The severity of the fines imposed by the court show that companies cannot continue to treat public and staff safety with contempt. The fines are intended to make Poundstretcher take its obligations seriously in the future.”
In July 2009 Poundstretcher was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £2,460 costs at Halifax magistrates court. And in October last year the company was fined £8,500 and ordered to pay £2,461 costs at Wakefield magistrates court.

Town centre blaze destroys MP’s offices

A major blaze in a Kent town centre has destroyed or severely damaged a number of businesses including the constituency office of Sports and Olympics minister Hugh Robertson.
The fire started in an ironmongers shop on the ground floor of the building in Lenham, and caused extensive damage to the Faversham and Mid-Kent MP’s office above. Crews were called at around 3.45 am but the fire was not extinguished until shortly before midday.
Around 40 firefighters tackled the blaze using six pumps, a height vehicle and three other support vehicles.
Hugh Robertson said:
“This is a sad day for everyone who uses the building. It is too early to assess the full implications but it is likely to have a short term impact on my ability to function as a constituency Member of Parliament.”
The cause of the fire is still being investigated but is not thought to be suspicious.

Harry Redknapp among guests that fled hotel blaze

Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp was among 200 guests that were forced to flee a blaze on 12 November, according to the Docklands news.
Around 50 firefighters tackled the fire, at Marriot Hotel near West India Quay. Crews were alerted by hotel staff at 10.32pm.
The fire, which took around four hours to get under control, damaged part of a restaurant on the ground floor of the building and also affected some ducting from the ground floor to the second floor.
Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus carried out a search of the building and assisted six people out of the building via internal staircases. London Ambulance Service were also at the scene and treated a number of people for smoke inhalation.

John Lewis in the Dock

Retailer John Lewis and refurbishment contractor Morris & Spottiswood have been ordered to pay fines totalling £40,000 after both firms failed to carry out proper asbestos checks during work at the retailer’s Edinburgh store.
Officers from City of Edinburgh Council discovered the problems after workers disturbed asbestos-containing materials while refurbishing the office management suite on the top floor of the retailer’s St James Centre department store.
The workers were taking down office and partition walls and did not know there was asbestos in the area. A Morris & Spottiswood employee discovered insulating board that he suspected contained asbestos in the early hours and stopped work.
When John Lewis staff went to collect the board for testing, they went to the wrong place and could not find it. Later in the day, a Morris & Spottiswood supervisor realised the suspect board had not been taken away and he submitted the material for analysis. But work restarted in the area before the tests came back.
When the results, received the following day, showed the suspect board contained amosite (brown asbestos) and chrysotile (white asbestos), Morris & Spottiswood suspended all work.
At Edinburgh Sheriff Court, Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie fined John Lewis £20,000 after it pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations.

She also fined Morris & Spottiswood, which specialises in commercial fitouts and house building and refurbishment, £20,000 after it admitted three charges under the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

Prohibition notice served after serious fire in flats

The owner of a block of flats in Bolton has been served a prohibition notice under the Housing Act 2004, following a serious fire.
Inadequate means of escape and poor fire resistance throughout the block were among the breaches of fire safety regulations highlighted by Manchester Fire and Rescue Service.
Fire safety officers also found the fire doors to be inadequate and said that some were even missing.
A joint inspection by Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and the local council took place after the blaze, which started in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
The fire spread from the lobby of the ground floor to the ceiling, causing the plaster to burn through. A female was rescued from her room and taken to hospital suffering from severe smoke inhalation while a further 12 people were led to safety by firefighters from both the front and rear of the three-storey block. A total of 25 firefighters battled the fire, using hose reel jets.
The block was mixed use accommodation, with flats as well as commercial premises. The fire is currently under police investigation.

A major pub chain has been fined £300,000 after a Merseyside landlord died

A major pub chain has been fined £300,000 after a Merseyside landlord died from carbon monoxide poisoning, and tenants at another 474 pubs were put at risk.
Paul Lee was found unconscious by a cleaner at the Aintree Hotel on Aintree Road in Bootle just after midday on 12 November 2007. He had turned on a gas fire in his living room ten hours earlier before falling asleep.
The 41-year-old suffered a heart attack due to lack of oxygen on the way to the hospital and died the following morning without regaining consciousness. He had worked as the tenant landlord at the pub for less than a month.
The owner of the Aintree Hotel, Enterprise Inns plc, was prosecuted after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the fire alarm may not have been serviced since 1979 and the chimney was completely blocked.
The West Midlands based company, which owns approximately 7,700 pubs across the UK and has an annual turnover of £818 million, admitted breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Enterprise Inns should have ensured that gas safety inspections were carried out at 868 of its pubs at least every 12 months, but that only 394 had valid certificates. The gas heater which caused Mr Lee’s death should have been checked before he took over the tenancy.
Enterprise Inns also received a written warning from HSE in 2001, following a fire at one of its properties in Birmingham, which highlighted a systematic failure to implement annual gas safety checks.
Mr Lee with his stepdaughter
“Tests we carried out on the gas fire at the Aintree Hotel showed that the workplace limit for exposure to carbon monoxide would have been exceeded within five minutes of it being turned on, and would have reached a level known to be fatal within an hour.
“The chimney from the fire was completely blocked so there was nowhere for the carbon monoxide to escape. Instead, it gradually built up in the room and starved Mr Lee’s organs of oxygen until he was left unconscious.
“What makes this case so tragic is that Mr Lee’s life could have been saved if Enterprise Inns had continued to obey the written warning it received about gas safety six years earlier, instead of falling back into old habits.”
Enterprise Inns plc, of Monkspath Hall Road in Solihull was ordered to pay £19,000 towards the cost of the prosecution in addition to the fine at Liverpool Crown Court on 5 October.

Hotel group pays £127,000 after ‘cavalier disregard’ of fire safety

A luxury hotel near Manchester has had to pay £127,000 for what a judge called a ‘cavalier disregard’ for the safety of guests.
Hallmark Hotels pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 at Chester Crown Court yesterday.
The Hallmark Manchester – formerly the Belfry House Hotel in Wilmslow – was visited by firefighters in April 2008 during renovations. According to Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, they were so concerned about what they found that fire safety officers were brought in the same day and served a prohibition notice closing the hotel.
The court heard that there was no operable automatic detection or manual call points on the third floor of the 160-capacity hotel, while on other floors there were faulty smoke detectors and substandard fire exits. Also staff had not been properly trained in fire safety.
The hotel was allowed to reopen four days later after remedial action was taken.
Hallmark Hotels was fined £75,000 (£25,000 for each offence) and ordered to pay costs of £52,000.