Ringwood firm Rocare fined £160,000 after three-year-old girl hit by falling roof slate at Moonfleet Manor Hotel in Weymouth
A RINGWOOD building firm has been fined £160,000 after a three-year-old girl was hit by a falling roof slate which fractured her skull.
Her toddler brother collapsed in terror as the tile weighing 1.5kg smashed into his sister’s head and doctors had to put her into an induced coma to save her life, a court heard.
She has been left with scarring and a risk of developing epilepsy, with doctors telling her parents they would have to “wait and see” what the lifelong consequences of the accident will be.
The horrific incident was described by a judge sitting at Bournemouth Crown Court this week as “an accident waiting to happen”.
The girl had been walking from the swimming pool at Moonfleet Manor hotel in Weymouth with her brother and father when she was hit.
Judge Jonathan Fuller KC said it was fortunate she had not been killed, after the slate fell two storeys from scaffolding erected around the hotel.
Rocare Building Services, which had been responsible for erecting the scaffolding, were charged with breaching healthy and safety regulations in relation to the incident, along with Gloucestershire-based building consultants Quadra and the site’s owner’s Luxury Family Hotels.
Judge Fuller said the company should have had “industry standard” safety measures in place to catch anything falling from the scaffolding.
These included fans – which prevent objects falling below the scaffolding – and brick guards which the judge “may very well have prevented the slate falling on the girl” if they had been used.
Scaffolders had raised concerns that they were missing, and a heavy metal clip had fallen just a few weeks before the accident happened on 13th June 2019.
But the preventative measures were not installed. Instead, the judge said, hazard tape and a “few bollards” were employed to keep people away from the bottom of the scaffold.
Rocare claimed it was a site manager’s fault that the fans and brick guards were not installed.
But the judge said it was Rocare’s responsibility to ensure the building site was safe.
Judge Fuller said that the hotel’s “attitude” had contributed to the scaffolding failures, with Rocare being told fences around it were “unattractive” and that they “did not want the place looking more like a building site than it did”.
They also complained that the scaffolding detracted from guests’ “views” from their bedrooms.
He said that Rocare should not have let the hotel interfere with its work, adding the company “accepts that its measures were inadequate”.
The judge added: “It took no steps to control the risk to the public, especially at the public walkway to the pool.”
But he accepted the failings were “out of character” for the company which has never received a healthy and safety warning in its over 30-year history.
Appearing for Rocare, barrister Paul Rogers said it was an “established and reputable company” which “expresses remorse for the incident which befelled this family”.
Rocare was fined £160,000 and told to pay costs of £15,554.78. After hearing the average profit for the company was £35,000 per year, the judge gave it 10 years to pay the fine.
Quadra was fined £60,000 with £25,000 costs, while LFH was fined £200,000 with costs of £143,482.
After the hearing, HSE inspector Nicole Buchanan said: “This incident has caused significant injuries and extreme distress to a child and her family, and could have been fatal.
“Clients and construction companies must always remember their legal duty to keep both workers and members of the public safe.”