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2nd November 2017

New H&S Precedent Set as Employee is Jailed Following Fatality

What’s happened?

In a landmark Crown Court ruling, an employee who installed a 40-stone automated gate to the garden of a house that fell and crushed a grandmother to death in front of her granddaughter has been jailed for three years for manslaughter by gross negligence

What went wrong?

The court heard how the home owner, Jill Lunn, had tried to close the gate using a remote control but it did not work. She then pulled at it to close it manually, but this caused the gate to fall from its tracks and land on top of her – with the total weight of approximately 1/3 tonne. It transpired that the mandatory safety-stop devices had not been fitted to prevent the gate from sliding off its steel track on the ground when opened by hand.

The gate was installed by Robert Churchyard, who had been an employee of Automated Garage Doors & Gates Ltd for over 20 years. Both he and the company were found guilty of safety offences at Norwich Crown Court in September.

Churchyard was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for manslaughter by gross negligence; the company was fined £12,000 for breaching the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008.

According to the Door and Hardware Federation (DHF), the case sets a precedent with regards to the future of safe automated gate installation and maintenance.

DHF general manager Michael Skelding said: “This sentencing serves as a stark warning to everybody involved in the automated gate sector that they must ensure all doors and gates are checked for safety against current standards and regularly maintained by properly trained specialists. As this court case clearly demonstrates, both individuals and companies could face prosecution in the event of an accident.”

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