Not carrying out a risk assessment led to my injury
A “walkabout” by a towering animatronics creation was a great treat for families in Sunderland – but not for an employee who was struck in the head by the monster!
Mary Taylor says she was injured because her employers failed to realise the problems that could arise from the display – and didn’t take any precautions to protect staff or the public.
Mary, 22, said she was surprised when she found out that the creature would be allowed to take any route it chose during the display and was even allowed to approach the crowd.
“It was 10 feet tall and very heavy and bulky,” she said. “It also had sound effects which were really scary for children and when it suddenly altered direction, youngsters turned and ran.”
The huge figure was allowed to walk freely amongst the public when staff involved felt onlookers should have been behind safety barriers.
“It was actually pretty scary,” said Mary. “Parents were pushing each other out of the way to try to get to their children and at one point I was really worried that little children in the crowd might be knocked over and trampled on. “
The animatronics attraction was manned from the inside but the operator’s view was of above head height. He couldn’t see small children or objects ahead of him and more than once bumped into people.
“It was a very big and really heavy but it moved very quickly. A lot of children were really frightened,” said Mary.
“We were told that whoever was close-by had to supervise it – but since we didn’t know which way it would turn or when it would lift its huge arms it was a nightmare. The sound effects and the control console that followed it around were really loud so the man inside couldn’t even hear if we shouted to him.
“There were at least a hundred people watching the display and they should have been kept well clear. I don’t think management realised how terrifying it would be!”
She said staff weren’t given any training – or even told what to expect from the creature.
“It was very hard to keep the public from getting too close, and there was very little I could do to keep so many people at a safe distance. We really needed an area where it could ‘perform’ safely.”
Mary said she realised at one point that the creature was turning around unexpectedly and she ran forward to ask people to give it some room.
“I was gesturing to people to get back when it suddenly turned, just as the crowd pushed forward. I was forced closer and as it turned, I was struck in the side of the head by its metal shoulder. It then grazed me as I tried to squeeze past.
“The man inside the creature didn’t even know that he had hit me, but I was almost knocked out. I was really dizzy, my head was bleeding and a workmate had to help me to the staff toilets to clean up.”
She said when she reported the accident and told her manager that she felt the creature needed closer supervision and a safe performance area, he told her that since it had only one more performance to give, it didn’t warrant bringing in barriers or roping an area off.
“I definitely think that it posed a real danger to both the public and members of staff. We were not even given any training on crowd control and I was completely out of my depth.”
As part of its menacing act, the creature rushed at people and a lot of the children watching were scared.
“Fortunately I wasn’t seriously hurt,” said Mary. “But it could have been so much worse. People often say that companies have gone overboard on risk assessments and that sort of thing but it certainly made me realise how important these procedures are.
Any activity or work that could pose a danger to employees or members of the public should not begin until a risk assessment has been carried out and if there are five or more employees, the risk assessment needs to be completed in writing.