Theatre Firm Faces Large Fine Over Stage Hand Accident

Employee Left Paralysed By Stage Fall In West End

10.10.2014

Soho Theatre in the West End of London is facing a large fine after one of its stage hands was left paralysed by a fall during preparations for a play.

Rachael Presdee was working on a production of Boys for the Headlong Theatre Company in 2012 when the incident occurred.

She had been installing lights when she walked through an unlocked 'Juliet' door, which is traditionally used to provide access to a balcony for scenes in Romeo and Juliet. However, this balcony had been removed and as a result Ms Presdee stepped out onto thin air.

The consequent ten ft fall caused her serious spinal injuries, which led to six months of hospital treatment. Ms Presdee has been left paraplegic and confined to a wheelchair, and has had to give up her stage career.

She has now returned to her native Australia, where she is believed to be studying law and planning a civil prosecution against the theatre.

Westminster City Council brought the case against the theatre, noting that the door had been identified as a safety risk a month earlier, but had not been locked or even had a safety warning attached.

Soho Theatre pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates' Court to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

District judge John Zani referred the matter to Southwark Crown Court for sentencing at a later date, observing: "Anybody could have accessed that door and fallen through and have been injured either to a lesser or a greater degree."

A statement by Soho Theatre said: "The Board, company and staff of Soho Theatre deeply regret the accident in June 2012 when a member of a visiting production company suffered a serious injury backstage at the theatre. Our first concerns have been for her and her well-being."

The most recent Health and Safety Executive figures on falls from height in the workplace, covering 2012-13, showed there were 5,724 incidents. Of these, 25 proved fatal and another 2,522 led to serious injury.

Expert Opinion
In this shocking case a woman has suffered severe, life-changing injuries as a result of her employers not taking their responsibility for health and safety seriously. It is vital incidents such as this act as a reminder to employers that workers are protected and that health and safety is a priority, particularly in dangerous working environments.

“We have seen first-hand the consequences poor health and safety standards can have on employees. We hope that this shocking incident encourages employers to improve their health and safety measures and ensure they adhere to the latest regulations to keep staff members safe.”
Stephen Nye, Partner