Thirty-year-old flaws led to Blackpool Waterstones death

Thirty-year-old flaws led to Blackpool Waterstones death

The falling sign which killed Waterstones bookseller Margaret Sheridan in Blackpool last year was the result of flaws dating back over 30 years, according to local newspaper the Blackpool Gazette. 

In January 2015, Margaret Sheridan, aged 68, was killed by a falling sign as she closed the Blackpool Waterstones store. According to the newspaper, a jury inquest found that her death was accidental, but following a full investigation, health and safety chiefs are now urging other businesses to ensure proper maintenance of their signs.

The report submitted to the inquest by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the sign fell because the timber holding the screws could "no longer withstand the loads".

An original "much lighter" sign had been fixed to the building in Blackpool, Lancashire, prior to 1980 using 10 woodscrews and a vertical stud. It is believed the sign was then made unsafe by the addition of a "larger and much heavier sign", which was also installed prior to 1980.

According to the Gazette, the fixings had been overloaded and weakened by corrosion over the years and eventually the timber holding the screws could no longer withstand the loads.

The report concluded that while the installers of the latest sign should have checked the strength of the existing sign before adding to it, the additional weight being added at that stage was relatively small. Thus, "it would not be unexpected if they assumed that their panels could be added safely".

Councillor Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said the Health and Safety Executive and Lancashire Police carried out a full investigation into Mrs Sheridan's death. She said: "While the investigations found that no-one was to blame, it is still important to look to see if there is anything that business owners in Blackpool could learn from this terrible accident.

"As the circumstances do not appear to show a single design type flaw, more a sequence of events over time, there is no single solution. However we have pledged to carry out a number of actions including reminding those businesses of their obligation to maintain premises and signage in a safe condition and ensure that any alterations are assessed for safety."

A spokeswoman from Waterstones said: "Margaret remains in our thoughts."