Estate agents fined after househunter falls 30ft down a well during property viewing

Swindon Magistrates’ Court heard how, during an open house viewing a prospective buyer stepped onto a wooden board which was covering a well.  The board gave way and she fell 30ft down the well, where she became submerged by water. A hosepipe was thrown to the woman and she managed to secure it around her waist it was another hour before she was recused from the well. The incident left the victim with head injuries, including concussion but also suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The incident occurred while the estate agents were holding an open house viewing at a property.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the estate agents had been warned about the well and the board that was covering it did not look safe. The company did not properly investigate if there was a risk of people falling down the well when they were viewing the property. It was heard that a Strakers’ employee had visited the house, and assumed that the wooden board would have a metal grill underneath it. He did not however lift the board to check.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matthew Tyler said: “This incident could have easily become a fatal tragedy. If, when warned, of the unsafe well the company had properly checked to see if it was secure the trauma this individual has gone through could have been prevented.

“Employers must check the risks associated with their work to protect their workers and members of the public they have contact with. Once they have identified any risks they can take practical steps to control them.”

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