The Zoological Society of London has been fined after a keeper suffered neck injuries when she fell from a faulty step ladder.
The worker was cleaning out a hawk aviary at London Zoo in July 2016, when her ladder gave way and she fell eight feet to the ground. The worker spent eight weeks recovering from soft tissue damage to her neck.
Unbeknownst to the employee, the step ladder she was using was due to be thrown out as it was defective, but it had not been properly labelled as faulty.
The Zoological Society of London, which began its own investigation into the incident and then brought it to the attention of Westminster Council, admitted two health and safety breaches.
Westminster Magistrates Court heard that the employee received no ladder training during the four years she was employed by the society, and this was ‘a direct cause of the accident’ according to Judge Richard Blake.
According to the Zoological Society, the employee was due to receive ladder training, but was at ‘the bottom of the list’ as she did not usually work at height.
The society pointed out that any profit from its £50m annual turnover is used for its conservation work, and urged the court to take this into account when passing a sentence.
The Zoological Society of London was fined a total of £40,000, with costs of £8,000. Judge Blake decided the start point for the offences was £150,000, reduced by a third for guilty pleas to £100,000, and then reduced further after taking into account mitigation.
Judge Blake told the court he had taken into account the society’s nature, and this ruling sent a ‘powerful’ message, stating £40,000 was a ‘significant sum’.
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