Beware the Danger of Falling Signs and Other Objects

A commonly occurring cause of injury on construction sites is from falling objects. There are a variety of different categories of objects that can fall from building materials to tools, however builders need to ensure that they do not contribute to this hazard by failing to maintain the site.

An example of what can happen when a builder neglects certain aspects of site maintenance has taken place in St George South London where a developer failed to inspect and maintain a sign which fell and hit a pedestrian in the head, causing her to sustain permanent brain damage.

The accident occurred when a decaying sign fell onto the head of a passing pedestrian and caused severe injury. The 33 year victim was innocently walking passed the site when the incident occurred and after several weeks in hospital she has sustained permanent brain damage.

The company was ordered to pay fines and prosecution costs but the young woman paid the greatest price, an excerpt from an article on below explains what happened:

developer1Olivia Richardson, aged 33, from Clapham, was struck by the section sign advertising the luxury St George Wharf development as she walked along the pavement near Vauxhall Bridge, London with her partner on 22 March 2008.

She was hospitalised for five weeks, including several days in intensive care, and required significant brain surgery. Formerly a primary school teacher, she is no longer able to work and continues to suffer from multiple permanent effects of her injury.

The Old Bailey heard (26 September) that parts of the timber sign (approx 12m x 3m) positioned more than 3m above the pavement, had decayed to the point that it was blown down by a strong gust of wind.

Ms Richardson’s partner recalled hearing a cracking sound as the pair approached traffic lights at Vauxhall Bridge. He turned to find her lying on her back beneath the sign, bleeding heavily from a deep head wound and slipping in and out of consciousness.


British work health and safety inspectors who visited that site after the incident said that it was observable that the sign could have fallen at any time. The sign was only designed to have a life span of 2 years yet the sign had been in position for 9 years and had never been checked by the developer.

Experts suggest that heavy winds which were recorded on the day of the incident combined with the bad condition of the sign was to blame for the incident. To make matters worse the suspicious sign was situated very close to a busy junction with a lot of pedestrians and near an underground station, opposite a bus station. Had the incident have taken place during rush hour when there were more commuters, the results could have been even worse.

Although cosmetic maintenance was made to the sign during its nine year existence, no one made sure that it was structurally sound and safe.