90-year-old woman fell through an access hole uncovered by council workers

An elderly lady died after falling through an access hole in her hallway floor left uncovered by council employees working on her central heating.

On 2 July 2009, Mrs Catherine Walker, 90, walked into the hallway of her house in Broompark View, East Calder, to go to her bathroom. She fell into an unguarded access hole and suffered major injuries from which she later died.

West Lothian Council employees were carrying out gas repair works as part of a programme to upgrade the central heating systems in all of the council’s domestic properties.

The work involved fitting new radiators, pipework, a boiler and electrical control systems. As the pipework runs under the floors, the floorboards were lifted in order to do the job.

West Lothian Council pleaded guilty to safety breaches on Monday and was fined £80,000 at Livingston Sheriff Court.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Garry Stimpson said: “This tragedy could have been avoided. The council employees should have covered the access hole or erected a barrier around it - this would have ensured the safety of Mrs Walker.

“Those working on central heating systems in a residential property must ensure that suitable and sufficient measures are taken to protect the residents.

“Every year thousands of projects involving central heating installation and upgrading are carried out across Scotland. Every time work is carried out contractors must take positive steps to prevent incidents - otherwise this type of incident will happen again.”