Yarmouth Castle. Picture by Peter Boam.
ENGLISH Heritage has accepted a Crown Censure — the equivalent to a criminal prosecution — for safety failings after a 12-year-old Isle of Wight boy was badly injured when a glass panel broke during a family visit to Yarmouth Castle.
The incident, which took place on September 5, 2011, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which today (Tuesday) formally administered a Crown Censure of English Heritage for failing to take reasonable steps to protect members of the public from risk.
It is the first such censure recorded against English Heritage since it was founded 30 years ago.
The youngster was with his brother and two friends in the 17th Century exhibition room when he jumped on a glass viewing panel set into the floor, designed to show stonework beneath.
The panel, which had been in place for many years and walked on by thousands of people over that time, splintered into shards causing the boy to suffer severe cuts to his left leg from the jagged glass, as he fell through it.
A witness told the County Press at the time: "I glanced over and saw a lad jump up and come down in the middle of the panel with both feet. "The glass went and the floor shook. The lad was just sitting there. He looked stunned. There was blood flowing down the hole. A woman came over and she seemed quite calm and took over things.
"The paramedic came and treated the lad and said it was quite serious."
The boy needed surgery twice but is now back at school.
HSE found that the floor panel broke because it was not made of toughened or laminated glass. English Heritage had not assessed specifically the risk of glass floor breaking at any of its properties since it was created in 1984 and given responsibility for around 400 historic sites.
However there had been regular inspections of the glass panels which would have identified any obvious damage.
HSE’s investigation found two of the boys had jumped on the panel before the 12-year-old, to prove it would not break.
Moments later, his father raised the alarm, while his mother, a nurse, gave her son first aid until paramedics arrived.
After the incident, English Heritage took immediate action to cover all similar glass floor panels whose strength could not be determined easily, or cordoned off the areas and erected warning.
It also identified and recorded the location of glass floor panels and low-level glass wall panels in all its properties and ensured they were safe.
According to the HSE, a Crown Censure is the way in which HSE formally records a decision that were it not for a Crown body’s immunity, the body’s failure to comply with health and safety law would have been sufficient to provide a realistic prospect of securing a conviction.
It is the maximum sanction for a government body that the HSE can bring, however there is no financial penalty associated with it.