Falling hoarding “could have killed” Oxford Street shoppers

Shoppers in one of London’s most popular retail districts were crushed under a hoarding that had been erected less than 24 hours earlier, a court was told last week.

Four people were injured in the incident, which happened in a packed Oxford Street, on March 7th 2012.

Westminster Magistrates Court heard how the hoarding, which was around 3.6 metres high and weighed nearly a tonne, had been put up the previous day to fence off Mango fashion store, which was being refurbished.

However, building firm Oracle Interiors Ltd had used only a single timber brace to hold the hoarding in place, which wasn’t designed to withstand gusts of winds or knocks from passing shoppers.

The wooden billboard, which had a picture of the model Kate Moss emblazoned on the front, toppled over, trapping as many as 20 people.

Fortunately most escaped unscathed, with emergency crews and passers-by rushing to help.

Among those who were not so lucky was 25-year-old Charlotte Hammond, who fractured her right ankle in the incident and needed extensive surgery.

Other victims suffered broken bones in their back and damaged nerves; it’s understood three are now taking civil action.

Oracle Interiors, who are based in Salisbury, Wiltshire, admitted a single breach of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations Act.

The firm was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay an additional £13,069 in costs.

Wendy Garnett, from the Health and Safety Executive, said the law was clear on the requirements for temporary structures such as hoardings.

“Innocent shoppers were subjected to a frightening and, for some, hugely traumatic ordeal that had a long-term impact,” said Ms Garnett.

“Charlotte and others could easily have been killed by the hoarding and they were completely unaware that it posed a risk – not only to them, but to the tens of thousands of people who walked along Oxford Street that busy afternoon.”

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