Landlord fined over business owner’s fall - Palmers Solicitors

Landlord fined over business owner’s fall

A commercial landlord has been fined after a tenant suffered fractured vertebrae when he fell through a faulty fire escape.

Jonathon Hoey had to spend a month in hospital with serious back injuries after falling more than three metres while leaving Tolson Mill, Tamworth, on 6 November 2012.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which brought a prosecution against the mill’s owners, Ashfield Land (Birmingham) Ltd, for safety breaches at Stafford Magistrates’ Court on 12 March.

The court was told that Mr Hoey rented space for his business on the top floor of the five-storey building. On the evening of his accident, he was working on his own when he became aware of intruders in the building and decided to use the external fire escape to try to avoid any confrontation.

As he started to descend, the top treads of the cast iron metal staircase collapsed and he fell to the flight below. He was off work for around three months following the fall and had to temporarily close his business.

The HSE established that the landlords had failed to maintain the fire escape and, despite being aware of its poor condition for six months, also failed to ensure it was not accessible until it could be fixed.

Bristol-based Ashfield Land was fined £13,500 and ordered to pay £961 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 4(2) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector David Brassington said: “In not maintaining this external fire escape, Ashfield Land (Birmingham) Ltd seriously failed the people using this building as a place of work. Duty holders with the responsibility for the maintenance of workplaces must ensure they are maintained, especially areas used for emergency access and exits.”

“Where repairs cannot be made immediately, measures should be taken to prevent access to those areas. A fall from height such as this could easily have resulted in a fatal incident.”

Palmers can provide comprehensive advice to commercial landlords, to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and duties towards their tenants, including on health and safety issues.

For clarification or guidance on health and safety responsibilities, or if facing prosecution, please contact health and safety specialists Lara Murray and Jeremy Sirrell.