Book-seller killed by falling sign as she closed high street Waterstones store was struck after design-flaw caused wooden structure to break off

  • Margaret Sheridan, 68, was killed by a falling sign as she shut up shop
  • She worked at branch of bookersellers Waterstones in Blackpool
  • A jury inquest has now returned a verdict of accidental death
  • Businesses are being urged to check their signs are properly maintained 

Margaret Sheridan, 68, from Blackpool, was closing the Waterstones store she worked at when the large structure crashed down on her as she attempted to lower the roller shutters

A book shop employee was killed by a falling sign as she closed the store because it was not properly maintained.   

Margaret Sheridan, 68, from Blackpool, was closing the Waterstones store she worked at in January 2015 when the large structure crashed down on her as she attempted to lower the roller shutters.

A jury inquest returned a verdict of accidental death but health and safety bosses carried out a full investigation and are now urging other businesses to ensure proper maintenance of their signs.

The report submitted to the in quest 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', also installed prior to 1980.

The installers relied on the fixings from the original sign.

When later additions were made, it was difficult to check the fixings because of the design of the second sign.

Over the years the fixings had been overloaded and weakened by corrosion and the timber holding the screws could no longer withstand the loads.

The HSE could not say why the sign had fallen at the moment it did.

Deputy leader of Blackpool Council, Councillor Gillian Campbell said the council, 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 jury inquest returned a verdict of accidental death but health and safety bosses carried out a full investigation and are now urging other businesses to ensure proper maintenance of their signs

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'.

Following Mrs Sheridan's inquest, coroner Alan Wilson wrote to the chief executive of Blackpool Council and, in response, the council's health and safety enforcement team, liaising with other authorities, set out an action plan which included informing relevant businesses of the incident and the reasons for it.

Mrs Sheridan's family said they welcomed the publication of the report but did not wish to comment any further.

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


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