In March 2012, in the heart of Oxford Street, shoppers were crushed when a large hoarding collapsed just after it had been erected, a court has heard. Four people were injured, three seriously, in the incident; they included 25 year-old Charlotte Hammond, from Romford, who sustained an open fracture of her right ankle that required extensive surgery.
The hoarding, which was approx 3.6m high and weighed nearly a tonne, had been erected by Wiltshire-based Oracle Interiors Ltd to fence off a clothing store that was being refurbished. The shopfitting firm was prosecuted (3 December) after an investigation by the HSE identified serious flaws with the temporary structure.
Magistrates heard that the hoarding was held in place by a single timber brace. As such, it was inherently weak, not designed or installed to sufficiently withstand gusts of wind or knocks from passing shoppers, both of which should have been factored in. An estimated 20 people were trapped by the hoarding when it came down, although most managed to escape unharmed as emergency crews and fellow passers-by rushed to help. Injuries sustained by the other victims, none of whom want to be identified, included broken bones in the back and crushed nerves in an arm.
Oracle Interiors based in Salisbury, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £13,069 in costs after pleading guilty to a single breach of the CDM Regulations 2007.
After the hearing, HSE Inspector Wendy Garnett commented:
“…the law clearly states that all temporary structures, including hoardings, should be properly designed, and so installed as to withstand any foreseeable loads imposed on them. That clearly wasn’t the case on this occasion and innocent shoppers were subjected to a frightening and, for some, hugely traumatic ordeal that had a long-term impact. Charlotte and others could easily have been killed by the hoarding and they were completely unaware that it posed a risk – not only to them, but to the tens of thousands of people who walked along Oxford Street that busy afternoon. Oracle Interiors could and should have done more to prevent the collapse…“