Chessington World of Adventures Operations Ltd was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay £21,614 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The charges were brought after a girl suffered a fractured skull, bleeding to the brain and broken ribs when she fell from the raised walkway while waiting in line at the theme park in Surrey on 7 June 2012.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated and prosecuted Chessington after finding the girl had fallen through a gap in a wooden fence. A hearing at Guildford Crown Court in January, heard HSE had identified that a rotting paling in the fence had fallen out having been dislodged on the morning of the incident. Further the whole fence showed evidence of serious weakening.
The theme park attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year to the site however Chessington did not have either an adequate system of checking and inspecting the fencing. Nor did they have a maintenance process to ensure faults were identified and rectified.
The investigation revealed the fence palings, which were examined in detail, were found to have evidence of white and brown rot. Although covered with a brown stain, they had not been painted with a preservative. Where the palings were positioned meant it was hit by rainwater from the roof exacerbating the lack of resistance to the weather. There was also evidence that numerous palings had been re-fixed over the years, demonstrating a recurrent problem.
HSE told the court that an adequate maintenance regime and reporting system would have captured details of regular repairs and identified problems and trends. But without these, management were unable to see any pattern developing and address it properly.
After the sentencing, investigating HSE inspector Karen Morris said: “This incident shows the importance of implementing robust systems for checking and maintaining all aspects of rides, and this includes the walkways and fencing associated with queuing and where people gather.”