Page last updated at 15:30 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 16:30 UK

Shop death fall due to bad lights

Shoppers outside Debenhams
Ms O'Neil fell down a stairwell at the Debenhams store in Glasgow

The death of a worker who fell down a staircase in a department store could have been avoided if the stairs had been better lit, a sheriff has ruled.

Marie O'Neil, 38, fell to her death while working at Debenhams in Argyle Street, Glasgow, last February.

Following a fatal accident inquiry, Sheriff Craig Scott said the stairwell was "pitch dark".

Ms O'Neil's family have criticised the retail giant for failing to provide adequate lighting.

The FAI heard that Ms O'Neil tripped and hit her head on a concrete floor as she was taking rubbish down a stairwell used by staff.

She died later at Glasgow Royal Infirmary from serious head injuries.

We are really angry that Debenhams kept every other part of the store permanently lit, but not the loading bay because it was only used by staff and not the customers
Linda O'Neil
Sister

The inquiry at Glasgow Sheriff Court heard that, at the time of the accident, there were light switches at the top and bottom of the staircase to turn the lights on and off.

This has now been replaced with permanent lighting.

In his judgement, Sheriff Craig Scott said: "In my opinion, it is more probable than not that the accident resulting in her death was caused due to the presence of darkness at some point during her descent.

"There was evidence to the effect that when the lighting wasn't illuminated, the stairwell was pitch dark.

"Accordingly, I find that the accident might have been avoided had the stairway been permanently illuminated."

'Lovely person'

The shop worker's sister Linda O'Neill said: "We are really angry that Debenhams kept every other part of the store permanently lit, but not the loading bay because it was only used by staff and not the customers.

"We are all devastated by Marie's death, particularly our Mum who is struggling to come to terms with it.

"Marie had worked at Debenhams and Lewis's for 22 years. She knew everyone from the general manager to the store room staff, and everyone loved her because was such lovely person, always laughing and full of fun.

"We will miss her very much."



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