Southwark Council fined following death

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging service providers to have safe procedures in place for loading and unloading wheelchairs and mobility scooters, following the death of a motorised scooter user.

Southwark Council of Peckham Road, London today pleaded guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at the City of London Magistrates Court, following a fatal incident in the car park of Alexandra Palace, Wood Green in London. The council was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,466.

The court heard that on 20 September 2006, a trip to an exhibition had been organised for people attending the Aylesbury Day Centre, which is run by the Council. As the group was preparing to return from the exhibition, they were being loaded into a welfare bus via a tail lift at the rear.

One of the group, William Delaney, 67, from Southwark, was using a motorised scooter and was being loaded into the bus. Whilst 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. Crucially, there was no risk assessment or procedure covering the loading and unloading of people with motorised scooters.

All 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. Simple measures could have been taken such as loading the motorised scooter onto the welfare bus without William Delaney sitting on it.

HSE’s investigating inspector Zameer Bhunnoo said:
“Had basic health and safety measures been carried out, this loss of life could have been prevented. A suitable risk assessment and safe procedure should have been drawn up covering the loading and unloading of people who use motorised scooters, who are loaded on and off welfare buses.

“Southwark Council failed in its duty by exposing motorised scooter users to such obvious risks. A safety alert in 2005 highlighted similar risks involving wheelchairs and highlighted the need for safe procedures. This should have prompted a complete review of loading operations involving the tail lift and included motorised scooters, but this did not happen. HSE will not hesitate to use the full force of its enforcement powers in such circumstances.”