It didn’t seem to occur to a Birmingham radio station that a prize competition involving sitting on solid carbon dioxide might end in discomfort, tears and more.
Topic: Games of chance and skill
Who: Birmingham Broadcasting Ltd t/a BRMB
When: January 2003
Where: Broad Street, Birmingham
After causing a furore in 1999 when it joined Carla Germaine and Greg Cordell in matrimony in a blind wedding ceremony, Birmingham-based commercial radio station BRMB's latest stunt to boost its listening figures turned out to be even more painful.
In August 2001, the radio station subjected contestants to the challenge of who could sit on dry ice for as long as possible. The "Coolest seat in town" competition required contestants to sit on solid carbon dioxide (dry ice) at a freezing temperature of -78°C (-108°F). The competition was held in the heart of Birmingham in Broad Street, and the prize was tickets to a music festival.
Ground breaking stuff. Unfortunately it was also literally brass monkeys stuff, since three of the contestants ended up being sent to hospital for treatment, where they remained for between 8 and 10 weeks.
As a result, Birmingham Broadcasting Limited, trading as BRMB, was charged with breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which requires employers to ensure that they do not expose those not in their employment to risks to their health and safety.
The case was heard late January 2003 at Birmingham Magistrates' Court. BMRB admitted that a breach of health and safety law had occurred and was fined £15,000. Civil claims by the three for personal injury damages are still proceeding, with £30,000 in interim damages already having been paid out.
Why this matters:
As we often stress on marketinglaw, promotional stunts such as these require full consideration of all potential pitfalls. BRMB's competition terms and conditions (posted on its website) contain warranties that participants are generally in a good state of health and will take all reasonable steps to ensure their own health and safety and stipulations that all activities in respect of the competition are undertaken at the participant's own risk. Unfortunately, these may not exonerate BRMB from liability if a competition ends up in personal injury or death of the participants. Apart from anything else, it is not possible in the UK to exclude responsibility for death or personal injury caused by negligence, whatever the small print might say.