Pub owners fined nearly £60k after worker falls through cellar hatch

Guests were evacuated from The Mariners Freehouse, Trimely St Mary, after lunch today when a fire br

The Mariners Freehouse in Trimley St Mary, where the incident happened - Credit: Archant

The owners of a Suffolk pub have been ordered to pay almost £60,000 in fines and costs after a trial employee suffered life-changing injuries in a fall.

The employee was on a trial shift at the Mariners Freehouse in Trimley St Mary on Sunday, May 19, 2019, when she fell more than two metres onto a hard cellar floor.

The cellar hatch had been left open and unguarded, with staff relied on to remember to avoid it. The new worker was distracted when her attention was called, falling through the hatch and hitting the stairs on her way down.

She suffered injuries including a collapsed lung, multiple broken ribs and other back and head injuries. She required 36 days in hospital for treatment.

Ropes surrounding the hatch had not been used, with video footage showing the hatch had been left open and unguarded 29 times during the four days leading to the incident.

New safety measures including a new hatch, grille, handrail and non-slip treads have since been installed.

The owners of the pub, Mariners Inns Ltd, pleaded guilty to breaching sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974.

Chelmsford Crown Court room seven, in the magistrates' court building, is hearing the case.

The sentencing was held at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court - Credit: Lucy taylor

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At a sentencing hearing at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Thursday (August 19), District Judge King imposed the company a fine, surcharge and costs totalling £59,904.91.

He accepted the company did not set out to deliberately cause harm – but said "that is not enough".

He said: "There is the potential for risks in any business and that business has an obligation and duty to reduce the risks as much as reasonably possible; the defendant did not. 

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but hindsight here does not win the battle; I consider that this was an accident waiting to happen, given the inadequate measures taken.

"To me as a lay person, the risks of a large hole taking up the majority of a walking space can be foreseen; this accident could have happened to anyone there.” 

Councillor Mary Rudd, East Suffolk Council cabinet member for community health

Mary Rudd, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for community health - Credit: Archant

Mary Rudd, East Suffolk’s cabinet member for community health, urged all businesses to review their own risk assessments.

She added: “This incident could so easily have been avoided if the proper safety measures were in place and being used.

"Not only has the incident affected the injured person’s ongoing health, it has also impacted her ability to find further employment."