A CONSTRUCTION firm will have to pay more than £30,000 after breaching health and safety rules when fence panels blew over, injuring a passer-by.

Stourport-based Thomas Vale Construction had already pleaded guilty to failing, under the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, to secure the hoardings and was sentenced at Kidderminster Magistrates Court yesterday.

At the hearing, magistrate Ian Latimer warned the punishment could have been worse but discount gained by pleading guilty had brought the fine down to the £20,000 maximum magistrates' courts can apply.

Thomas Vale has two weeks to pay the fine, plus £10,250 costs and £15 victim surcharge - £30,265 in total.

On May 15, 2012, two solid metal hoardings surrounding the town centre Piano Building, where Thomas Vale was carrying out construction work, blew over, hitting a 56-year-old Kidderminster woman who suffered severe, life-changing head injuries, just days after another section of the fencing had also failed on April 29.

Mr Latimer told the court on Monday: "[The collapse] was foreseeable because it had already happened in one area of the site and only minimal changes to the fence in its entirety were made. Thomas Vale were the principal contractors and thus in control of people carrying out the construction work."

Speaking after the hearing, Jo Anderson, inspector for prosecutors the Health and Safety Executive, said: "Thomas Vale had a duty to its workforce and to members of the public to ensure the hoarding around the site was safe.

"This fencing was constructed using guesswork. The company failed to seek expert advice in order to ensure the hoarding was designed correctly and did not consider the substantial force which strong wind can impart on solid hoardings.

"This woman, who had parked and was on her way to the shops, suffered life-changing head injuries in what was a preventable incident. Without doubt, though, we could easily have been dealing with a fatal incident."

Andrew Cameron, defending, had previously told the court Thomas Vale "deeply regretted" the woman's injuries and said the decision to use solid metal fencing and not fix them under ground was made to prevent items from being expelled from the site and not to disturb underground cables to a nearby electrical sub-station.

He added the firm had not made the decision unilaterally and had been "wrongly" reassured by suppliers the hoardings would withstand foreseeable wind speeds.