Britannia Hotels fined 80K after woman falls through rusted railings

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A woman was left with life changing injuries after she plunged 6 foot down into a basement lightwell through rusted railings at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Southport.

Sefton Magistrates Court heard Britannia Hotels had failed to mend railings guarding the drop, which had been left to rust or else were completely missing.

Sefton Council brought the prosecution against the hotel chain after the incident on May 12, 2018.

The rusted and missing railings at Prince of Wales hotel in Southport. Photograph: Sefton Council

Victim, hotel guest Deborah Henshall told the court that she had suffered two spinal fractures in the fall, as well as a broken left big toe and blood on her lungs due to the sternum and rib fractures. She also sustained a head injury, concussion and trauma.

In her statement she wrote that she had enjoyed a full life before the incident, working two jobs. Since that day, she has been off work and lost both her jobs is relying on benefits.

‘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.’

Fiona Townsend, the Council’s Senior Lawyer told the court that the railings should have prevented people falling but were “missing in one location and badly corroded in numerous other areas”. Sefton Council had issued an improvement notice after the Company had still not made the area safe with suitable fencing over three weeks after the incident.

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,” she added.

Britannia Hotels was fined £80,000 plus costs of £6821.92 for health and safety failings.

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.”


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