English Heritage has been formally censured for safety failings after a boy was badly cut by glass during a visit to Yarmouth Castle. The incident took place at the Isle of Wight attraction in September 2011. Following a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation, English Heritage accepted a Crown Censure, which is equivalent to a criminal prosecution.
Injury inflicted by glass shards
When in the 17th century exhibition room with his brother and two friends, the 12-year-old boy jumped on a glass viewing panel that was set into the floor to show stonework underneath. The glass panel splintered into shards and the boy suffered severe lacerations to his left leg from the jagged glass. He is now back at school and recovered, following two rounds of surgery to treat the injury.
Injury risk ‘not identified’
On 14 January 2014, the HSE formally administered a Crown Censure on English Heritage for its failure to take reasonable steps to protect members of the public from risk. It is the first time English Heritage has been served such a notice since it was founded in 1984.
The HSE’s investigation concluded that the glass floor panel, which had been walked on by thousands of people over many years, had broken because it was not made of toughened or laminated glass. It also seems that little was done to ascertain safety implications and risk associated with the item, with the HSE finding that English Heritage had not specifically assessed the risk of glass floor panels breaking at any of its properties throughout history.
The HSE acknowledged that if there had been regular visual inspections of the glass panels, this would have identified any obvious damage. The 12-year-old boy jumped on the panel to show that it would not break after two of the other boys had done the same, the HSE reported. In the moments following the incident, the boy’s mother, a nurse, was giving her son initial first aid while his father raised the alarm.
Glass panels covered or cordoned off
English Heritage took immediate action after the incident to cover all similar glass floor panels with strength that could not be determined easily, or it cordoned off the panel area, and it used warning signs to alert the public. It also identified and recorded the location of glass floor panels and low-level glass wall panels across all of its properties and ensured they were safe.
The Crown Censure meeting on 14 January, held at the HSE premises in Basingstoke, was attended by Tracey Wahdan, historic properties director at English Heritage. In accepting the findings and the Censure, she formally acknowledged that there were safety failings.
English Heritage cannot face HSE prosecution in the same way as non-governmental bodies, with Crown Censures the agreed procedures applicable to Crown employers instead of criminal proceedings.