Council fined after pensioner death
A council has been fined £80,000 after an elderly lady died from falling through an access hole in her hallway.
Catherine Walker, 90, suffered major injuries from which she later died after falling into the hole left by West Lothian Council employees at her house in Broompark View on 2 July 2009.
The council had been carrying out gas repair works as part of a programme to upgrade the central heating systems in all of the council’s domestic properties.
West Lothian was given the fine at Livingston Sheriff Court this week, after pleading guilty to breaching the Health & Safety and Work Act.
Health and Safety Executive inspector Garry Stimpson said: ‘This tragedy could have been avoided. The council employees should have covered the access hole or erected a barrier around it - this would have ensured the safety of Mrs Walker.
‘Those working on central heating systems in a residential property must ensure that suitable and sufficient measures are taken to protect the residents.’
Mr Stimpson pointed out every year thousands of projects involving central heating installation and upgrading are carried out across Scotland.
‘Every time work is carried out contractors must take positive steps to prevent incidents - otherwise this type of incident will happen again,’ he said.
The work in the East Calder property involved fitting new radiators, pipework, a boiler and electrical control systems.
As the pipework runs under the floors, the floorboards were lifted to do the job.
A spokesperson for the council said: ‘West Lothian Council wishes to express its regret and sympathy to Mrs Walker’s family. The council unreservedly apologises for the failure that led to their loss.
‘This tragic incident has been treated with the utmost seriousness and the council cooperated fully with the investigations of the Health and Safety Executive.’
The council worked with the HSE to review and implement procedures to ensure further work was carried out safely, she added.