5 October 2018

£44,600 penalty for brewery after man fell through pub trapdoor

A delivery driver injured his knee, arm and rib after falling through a pub trapdoor into a cellar at the Last Drop Inn pub on Colliergate, York – the York Brewery was fined £44,600, including costs and a surcharge by York magistrates.

The driver was delivering gas cylinders – he was led into the pub and behind the bar into a dark corridor. As he stepped aside to let an employee switch on the lights, he fell five feet into the cellar through the open trapdoor, which spanned the whole corridor. He could not work for the next three months because of his injuries and the court heard that he was still in pain a year after the incident, as well as facing further surgery.

Victoria Waudby, prosecuting at York Magistrates Court, told the court that the trapdoor stretched from wall to wall of the room and had inadequate safety precautions.

The brewery had been warned in 2011 about the trapdoor by officers from City of York Council – it was then found to have been left open several times a day and was unguarded. Protection chains were not being used properly for several years before the fall in July last year.

The brewery, based in Toft Green, York, pleaded guilty to three offences under health and safety legislation – failure to have a proper risk assessment, failure to carry out its business without protecting people properly and failure to protect people from falling from a height.

York Brewery was fined £39,480 and ordered to pay £4,972.54 prosecution costs to City of York Council, which prosecuted it along with a £170 statutory surcharge. The company has since sealed the trapdoor and changed the pub’s operating procedure to prevent it happening again.

Laura Shirley, Harrison Clark Rickerbys’ health and safety specialist, said: “The driver suffered life-changing injuries from this fall, which was a serious breach of health and safety precautions. Given that the court heard that this trapdoor was frequently left open, it is astonishing that this had not happened before.

“This was an obvious danger, and one which would have been easy to remedy, but health and safety requirements are often much more complex and compliance is essential for the sake of staff and customers.”

Laura can be contacted at lshirley@hcrlaw.com

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About the Author
Heath Thomas, Partner, Head of Thames Valley Office, Licensing and Regulatory
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