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Hospital trust fined for loft plunge

THE Mid Cheshire Hospitals Trust has been ordered to pay more than £21,000 after a worker at Crewe's Leighton Hospital plunged through an unguarded hatch into a waiting room below.

THE Mid Cheshire Hospitals Trust has been ordered to pay more than £21,000 after a worker at Crewe's Leighton Hospital plunged through an unguarded hatch into a waiting room below.

John Gordon fell as he was trying to test a smoke alarm in a loft.

The trust was fined a total of £18,000 and ordered to pay £3,736 costs after admitting two breaches of Health and Safety rules at South Cheshire Magistrates Court.

It pleaded guilty on Friday to failing to ensure the safety of employees and the visiting public.

The court heard how Mr Gordon, who lives at Stoke-on-Trent, fell through the plywood hatch and landed on chairs and tables in a waiting room in the ante-natal ward. Just minutes earlier a family visiting the hospital had been sat directly underneath.

Magistrates were told how Mr Gordon seriously injured his left arm and was immediately taken to theatre. He was in hospital for two weeks as a damaged artery in his arm was repaired with veins taken from his leg.

He is still not back at work six months after the accident and could not be at court because he had to attend physiotherapy.

Prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, Mike Salt said the trust employs about 3,000 workers providing healthcare for a quarter of a million people.

He said Mr Gordon had entered the roof space above the ante-natal clinic to test a smoke alarm with a smoke generator. He reached to set off the smoke sensor when he plunged 3.5 metres through an unguarded hatch.

He added: 'No risk assessment had been undertaken for fire alarm testing or accessing the roof space. The hatch had no warning signs marking it as being non-load-bearing and was not cordoned off.

'There was nothing there to stop him going straight through onto the chairs and tables below. The accident could have resulted in serious injury to members of the public.'

He said that while the trust had no previous convictions for similar offences, the HSE had served 10 enforcement notices on the trust in 1999.

Jack McGarva, defending, said: 'This accident is a matter that the trust takes very seriously indeed and the chief executive is in court in person today.

'The trust has not sought to delegate the responsibility to people lower down the chain and this demonstrates their concern about the seriousness of the prosecution. They very much regret the injury to Mr Gordon. He is off work at the moment but is on full pay. The trust hopes very much he will return.'

Mr McGarva said that Mr Gordon had accessed the loft by a ladder designed as a fire escape route.

He said: 'If you used the proper ladder then the hatch would be open and you will know about the hazard.

'You might have expected an experienced electrician to have known what it was he was dealing with. The trust has to accept there was no written risk assessment. There should have been a written instruction saying you go in using the fold-down ladders. We see that as being our biggest failure in relation to the accident.'

He said that so far this year there had been 17 minor accidents and three serious ones.

He added: 'The trust is not a body that is cavalier about its responsibilities or to run things on a strict budget at the expense of health and safety.'

Barriers have since been built around the hatch and similar hatches at the hospital at a cost of £35,000.

Bench chairman Claire How fined the trust £12,000 for the first offence of failing to ensure worker's safety and £6,000 for failing to safeguard the public.


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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