A Swansea installation firm and a Cardiff maintenance company have been sentenced for serious safety failings after a five-year-old girl was crushed to death by an electric gate.
Karolina Golabek was killed when she became trapped between the closing edge of the gate and the gate post outside flats near her home in Bridgend on 3 July 2010.
The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd and Tremorfa Ltd after finding the gate was inherently unsafe and posed a clear risk.
Cardiff Crown Court heard today (Thursday 12 June) that Karolina was playing around the gates in Brook Court when they automatically closed after a car passed through. Her body was found in the gap between the post and gate a short time later by a resident. .She was rushed to hospital, but died as a result of her injuries.
HSE found that the closing force of the gate did not meet European and British safety standards. It was in excess of 2,000N, the equivalent to the force created by a weight of 440lbs (220kgs).
There were also dangers with the gate structure, which left space for people to get trapped, and there were insufficient safety devices to detect a person in the area that would automatically prevent it closing. These safety features were incorrectly set.
The court was told that John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd had fitted a new electric motor to the gate when a previous motor had broken. The gate was put back into use despite the fact that there were obvious trapping points. The firm also failed to properly test that the gate stopped when it met an obstruction, or test the force that the gate closed with.
Tremorfa Limited was contracted to maintain the gate. Despite carrying out two maintenance visits, the last one just six weeks before Karolina’s death, the company did not carry out vital safety checks, including closing force measurements.
John Glen (Installation Services) Ltd of Phoenix Way, Garngoch Industrial Estate, Swansea, was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £40,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Tremorfa Ltd, of Pascal Close, St Mellons, Cardiff, was fined £50,000 with costs of £40,000 also pleaded guilty to the same charge.
HSE Inspector Stuart Charles, speaking after the hearing, said:
“Karolina’s death has left her family devastated, and yet it could so easily have been avoided.
“Both companies walked away from the gate leaving it in an unsafe condition. Both could have prevented this tragedy.
“Automated gates are becoming more common and it’s sometimes difficult to appreciate that even small gates can close with significant force. Badly installed and maintained gates are a threat to all pedestrians, but young children are particularly vulnerable because they are often completely unaware of the dangers.
“No-one should install or work on automated gates without knowing the relevant safety standards or without having the right equipment to check that the gate is safe after they have worked on it .
“If you own or are responsible for managing properties with automatic gates you should ensure they are properly maintained. You should also ensure that those carrying out the maintenance are competent to do so.”
Further information about electric gates can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/safetybulletins/electricgates2.htm
Notes to Editors
- The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
- Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
- HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.