Council fined following death of wheelchair user

  • March 2, 2010
  • Bruce Bromley

Following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in October Southwark Council pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at the City of London Magistrates Court, after a fatal incident in the car park of Alexandra Palace in London. The incident occurred following a trip to an exhibition organised for people attending the Aylesbury Day Centre, which is run by the council. The group were boarding a welfare bus via a tail lift. One member, William Delaney, was using a motorised scooter, and while on the raised tail lift, his scooter came off the back and fell to the ground. He died from head injuries sustained in the fall.

The HSE investigation found that Mr Delaney’s scooter did not fit on the tail lift. As a result, the tailgate plates, a safety feature which would have prevented the mobility scooter from falling off, did not lock into position. There was no risk assessment or procedure covering the loading and unloading of people with motorised scooters. Service providers had been warned of similar risks involving wheelchairs by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency  (MHRA) in 2005, following a number of fatal accidents across the UK.

HSE’s investigating inspector Zameer Bhunnoo said: ‘A suitable risk assessment and safe procedure should have been drawn up. Southwark Council failed in its duty by exposing motorised scooter users to such obvious risks.’