Fatal mobility scooter plunge through badly built barrier

Grant Prior 2 years ago
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The NHS Litigation Authority has been prosecuted after an 82 year old man fell 12 feet to his death from an elevated walkway outside a health centre.

hse fall
The scene of the fatal fall

Benjamin John Withers from Fareham in Hampshire died after the mobility scooter he was driving collided with a wooden weather screen which was situated around the main entrance and access bridge to Fareham Health centre.

The collision caused a section to give way and Withers and his mobility scooter fell through the gap onto a walkway below.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard that on 20th September 2012 Withers left the centre after attending an appointment and accidentally drove his mobility scooter forward into the side of the glazed screen instead of reversing away from it.

After the initial impact he then moved forward again and fell through the opening in the screen which had partially given way.

An HSE investigation found the barrier had not been constructed to the required standard to resist impact from a mobility scooter, no assessment had been made to consider the suitability of the weather screen and the structure had not been adequately maintained.

The investigation also found that the collapsed section was so badly decayed that portions of the wood could be easily removed by hand.

Planned maintenance work to replace the rotten wood had been cancelled and rescheduled on more than twenty occasions without ever being carried out.

NHS Litigation Authority of Buckingham Palace Road London, pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £15,000 costs

HSE Inspector Michael Baxter said: “This tragic incident could have easily been avoided if the barrier at Fareham Health Centre had met the well-known and established standards for design and construction of barriers and if the required maintenance had been carried out as soon as it was identified.

“Instead a family has lost a well-loved husband and father.

“Mobile scooters are being used increasingly, especially in pedestrian areas. Businesses need to appreciate this and ensure existing structures and barriers are re-assessed to ensure they are suitable for these machines.”

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