Firm fined further over Wolverhampton storm death

January 27, 2023

A company has been fined a further £200,000 after a woman was killed by a water tank cover falling from a shopping centre.

Tahnie Martin was hit by the wooden panel outside the Mander Shopping Centre in Wolverhampton during Storm Doris in 2017.

Cushman and Wakefield Debenham Tie Leung Limited was fined £1.3m in 2019 for health and safety breaches.

It was fined by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) for bringing the profession into disrepute.

A disciplinary tribunal last week found against the managing agent, which was responsible for maintenance of the centre at the time of the death.

Ms Martin’s inquest heard the plant room on the building’s roof may not have been maintained for nearly two decades, and Cushman and Wakefield Debenham Tie Leung Limited was responsible for managing it for the five years leading up to 2017, the Institute said.

The cover was ripped away in the strong winds as Ms Martin, who was from Stafford and worked at the University of Wolverhampton, walked below with a work colleague who was also struck and injured. Ms Martin suffered serious head injuries and died at the scene.

Cushman and Wakefield Debenham Tie Leung Limited had previously pleaded guilty to an offence contrary to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act after the city council pursued legal action.

The firm was fined at Wolverhampton Crown Court in July 2019.

RICS said at the time it had updated elements of its professional guidance since Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique wrote to the body in 2018 to express concerns about a “prevention of future deaths” in relation to public buildings.

The managing agent was found to be liable for disciplinary action after failing to act with due skill, care and diligence in that during the course of its appointment as property manager for the Mander Centre, the hearing found.

“It [the panel] had no difficulty in concluding that the matters charged were liable to bring the profession into disrepute and of sufficient seriousness, both individually and collectively, to render a finding of liability to disciplinary action both necessary and appropriate,” it said.

Cushman and Wakefield Debenham Tie Leung Limited was also ordered to pay £10,000 in costs to RICS.

George Roberts, Head of UK and Ireland at the company, said: “We deeply regret the tragic circumstances that led to the death of Tahnie Martin, following which we made wide-ranging improvements to our procedures.

“We have also sought to ensure that we continue to learn lessons, and that those lessons are embedded in our organisation at all levels.”

He said processes now went “significantly beyond RICS’s updated requirements” as routine inspections included a requirement to examine whether any items could be vulnerable in high wind and new detailed assessments specifically looked at risks to the public presented by the external fabric of a building.

This is valid as of 27th January 2023.

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