‘Ben’s Law’ comes into force to prevent child balcony plunges

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NEW building regulations created following the death of a one-year-old boy who plunged 15 feet from a balcony at his mother’s workplace have come into force.

Ben McCreath from Penicuik, Midlothian, fell through a six-inch gap in a glass panel on the first floor of an office block at Princes Exchange, Earl Grey Street, on February 14, 2006.

Following a fatal accident inquiry last year, recommendations were made to introduce new legislation – dubbed “Ben’s Law” – that would make it more difficult for children to squeeze through railings and balconies.

The Scottish Government agreed to restrict gaps to just 100mm (four inches) in new buildings and encourage owners to make alterations to existing ones.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Local Government and Planning, said the now completed review was prompted by Ben’s accident.

She added: “Revised guidance applies to protective barriers and this will further protect children in and around new non-domestic buildings.

“We are also producing a guidance leaflet, Are Your Barriers Safe?, which should help raise awareness of potential hazards in existing buildings.”

The news comes just days after another accident in the Capital left a toddler with severe head injuries.

The three-year-old, who has not been named, fell 15ft from the window of a building in Portobello on Thursday.

He was rushed to the Sick Kids hospital, where his condition is thought to be critical.

Ben was just 21 months old when his mother, Louise, took him to a meeting at the legal firm she worked with.

As they were leaving, the toddler ran away from the part-time receptionist to play hide and seek.

Horrified Louise, then 29, watched her son fall from the first-floor balcony.

Ben was rushed to the Sick Kids, but doctors could do nothing to save him.

The FAI in May 2010 found that the office block had been built according to existing regulations and ruled that the death was a “tragic accident”.

Sheriff Mhairi Stephen recommended that officials introduce a mandatory 100mm rule to reduce gap sizes in protective railings and barriers to prevent similar incidents in future.

She said no individual was to be blamed for Ben’s death but added: “Had the rule applied when the Princes Exchange was designed, this accident would have been prevented.”

After the hearing, Mrs McCreath and her husband, Ross, welcomed the proposals.

She said: “If anything comes out of this whole affair that prevents it happening to anyone else, then Ross and I are extremely proud.

“It doesn’t make it easier but it gives the death a purpose. I would give anything to turn back the clock but some days you have to think how proud you are of him. Because of Ben, nobody else will ever go through this.”

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: “This size of gap is too small for a toddler to climb through or put their head through, so it’s really good news that the Scottish Government has released this new guidance.

“We hope that these new measures will help save lives.”

laura.cummings@edinburghnews.com