£4,000 fine after worker fell down hole

PUBLISHED: 07:59 16 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 October 2010


A fledgling businesswoman was ordered to pay more than £4,000 yesterday after an engineer working at her bar fell down an uncovered 8ft shaft, knocking him out.

A fledgling businesswoman was ordered to pay more than £4,000 yesterday after an engineer working at her bar fell down an uncovered 8ft shaft, rendering him unconscious.

John Harrison had to spend 24 hours in hospital after falling down the hole left by the removal of a 'dumb waiter' food lift at the premises on Earlham Road, Norwich.

Mr Harrison had turned up a day earlier than expected for his appointment to install a credit card machine while the building was being transformed from Trad's pizza restaurant into the Workshop Bar and Café, Norwich magistrates heard.

The Workshop's owner Linda Bryant claimed he was told about the hole near where he would be working and that she had guarded it at the other end by placing a table next to it.

It was only at the end of his job, when he was completing an assignment sheet, that Mr Harrison fell down the hole.

Bryant pleaded guilty yesterday to offences under the Health and Safety at Work act in failing to make the premises safe.

Ian Mayers, prosecuting, said the fall could have resulted in serious injury or even death.

He added that the uncovered shaft had already been in the building for six days prior to the accident while workmen renovated the premises.

In mitigation, Debbie Reynolds said it was Bryant's first business venture and that she had no previous health and safety knowledge or experience.

As the business was not registered while the building was renovated, Bryant had not received health and safety advice from the council by the time the accident took place.

Bryant told the EDP after the case that a six-month wait in bringing the prosecution had affected her health.

“I even made a joke about the hole being there so he [Mr Harrison] was well aware of it and he had been working right next to it - it was just very unfortunate.”

Penny Coult, health and safety officer at Norwich City Council and investigating officer, urged business owners to take more care over making premises safe and advised that precautions could be carried out simply.

She said: “This case is one of a number of recent cases in Norwich where workers and members of staff have fallen down unguarded open hatches and holes.

“We would urge that all proprietors look at the way they operate their premises and ensure that safe practices are carried out whenever equipment is removed or cellars are accessed through hatches.

“There should be sufficient guarding to prevent risk of personal injury.

“Failure to carry out simple precautions can lead to serious injury or fatalities which can have lasting consequences to both injured persons and businesses.”

Bryant was fined £1,800 and ordered to pay £2,400 in costs.

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