Bakery fined after customer falls into cellar hatch

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Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 25 April 2013, a customer who was celebrating her birthday that day went in to Gail’s Artisan Bakery, 341 Fulham Road, SW10 to buy cakes. While in the shop she fell through an open and unguarded cellar hatch next to a cake display and close to the shop’s till. The eight-foot drop resulted in her sustaining a fractured pelvis.

The owners of the bakery pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity to failing to discharge a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. An investigation into the accident by Environmental Health Officers from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea found the bakery’s management was not implementing safe systems of work or following company procedures designed to prevent this type of incident. The court heard how the fall resulted in the customer spending five days in hospital. She now has difficulty walking and has been unable to return to work. Prior to the fall she had an active lifestyle which included daily jogging.

The Environmental Health Officer investigating served a Prohibition Notice on 30 April 2013 which prevented use of the hatch until safe procedures were in place. This restriction was subsequently lifted on 14 June 2013 when the officer was satisfied staff using the hatch had been adequately trained and a suitable barrier supplied. Counsel for Gail’s Limited told the court the company, which has no previous convictions, took the case very seriously and was extremely sorry the customer was injured in the bakery that day. When sentencing, the Chairwoman of the Bench noted the company’s early guilty plea and full cooperation with the Council’s investigation. It was acknowledged that it was its first offence in nine years trading and that it had introduced prompt remedial measures including redesigning the bakery so the hatch was no longer required to access a storage area.

Councillor Tim Ahern, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Cabinet Member for Environmental Health, said: “This accident, which had such serious consequences for this customer, should never have happened. I am very glad the court has handed down this fine. It is very simple, hatches and trapdoors should never be left open and unguarded. If we discover they are we will take action.”

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