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London Zoo safety breach: Keeper suffered neck injuries in faulty stepladder fall

A London Zoo safety breach saw a keeper, who was cleaning out a hawk aviary, fall off a faulty step ladder that was retrieved from a skip.

Angelina Lawson suffered with neck injuries in the accident while removing droppings from a shelf under the birds perches.

The step ladder had been placed into the skip due to it being defective but was accidently brought back into use and had not been labelled as faulty.

07 November 2018

A London Zoo safety breach saw a keeper, who was cleaning out a hawk aviary, fall off a faulty step ladder that was retrieved from a skip.

Angelina Lawson suffered with neck injuries in the accident while removing droppings from a shelf under the birds perches.

The step ladder had been placed into the skip due to it being defective but was accidently brought back into use and had not been labelled as faulty.

Westminster Magistrates Court heard that Ms Lawson was working at a height of 8ft (2.5)m when the fall occurred after the ladder gave way. She spent several weeks recovering from soft tissue damage to her neck,

Training

The Zoological of London, the charity that runs the zoo in London admitted to two safety breaches.

District Judge Richard Blake said ‘Ms Lawson had not received any training with regard to the use of ladders during her four years working at the zoo.’ The lack of training was deemed as being a direct cause of the accident. As a result of this incident enquiries took place and this resulted in the prosecution. Ms Lawson had completed four aviaries using the ladder and was on the last one when the fall occurred.

“Whilst cleaning the surface the ladder collapsed beneath her. She was advised by a doctor she sort to take rest for concussion. She attended hospital the next day for an x-ray which showed swelling of the soft tissue and also diagnosed with concussion which can last up to a month.”

Fine reduced

The zoo conducted an internal investigation into the accident which happened on 16 July 2016 and then informed Westminster Council which brought forward the prosecution.
Charles Barry, representing the zoo, told the court Ms Lawson had been due to have ladder training when she fell, but was “at the bottom of the list” as she did not usually work at height. Mr Barry pointed out that any profit from the zoo’s £50 million annual turnover is used for its animal conservation work, urging the judge to limit the fine imposed.

Judge Blake fined the Zoological Society a total of £40,000, with costs of £8,000. Deciding the start point for the offences was £150,000 Judge Blake reduced the fines by a third for guilty pleas to £100,000 and reduced the figure further taking into account mitigation.

He added: “In the circumstances I consider having regard to the charitable nature of this organisation, it is appropriate to take that into account by halving the fine to £50,000 in each instance. I reduce the fine further in respect of each offence. I have dealt with this in the manner I have very much recognising the nature of the Zoological Society.”

Judge Blake said he had sent a “powerful” message to the Society arguing £40,000 was a “significant sum” to amass.

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