The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has strongly recommended the implementation of a chain of controls at all times in the workplace, to ensure the avoidance of accidents involving people falling through 'doors to nowhere'.
The issue has been highlighted by IOSH after two recent serious incidents in which people fell after walking through doors without realising there was a sudden drop or void on the other side.
The first incident happened at Soho Theatre in London, when stage manager Rachael Presdee fell through an unmarked balcony door and landed on the stage below, leaving her paraplegic. The theatre has since admitted health and safety breaches, and has consequently been fined £20,000 with £10,000 costs.
An incident at Premier Foods in Nottinghamshire was the second recent accident, which has caused IOSH concerned. An inquest into this incident found that Nigel Chester sadly died after falling four metres through a void behind a door he had opened, causing him to hit his head on machinery.
Research and information services manager at IOSH, Jane White, said: "There needs to be a series of controls in place to stop these 'doors to nowhere' from causing any incidents or accidents.
"What we would see in terms of a profession is that each door or each situation should be looked at in its own merit and the risk around it assessed and controls put in place", Ms White added.
IOSH has recommended that any workplace that has such hazardous doorways should be exercising a system of having an isolated key for the particular door, and ensure it is inaccessible to all master keys. Access to the isolated key should also be controlled through a permit to work system, with a manager having the responsibility to make sure anyone who needs access to the key is fully aware of the danger.
Furthermore, adequate warning signs should be on display clearly at all times, to further prevent the chance of an accident. The final step that employers could take would be to install a barrier on the other side of any 'door to nowhere', which would prevent the risk of anyone falling.
IOSH offers health and safety training for all industries, but also tailor made courses for the theatre industry and those working in theatre production.