A health and safety expert was told by his bosses to ‘keep his nose out’ of safety concerns at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough stadium a year before the disaster killed 96 Liverpool football fans, a jury heard.
Paul Jackson was a health and safety officer with Sheffield Council’s environmental protection unit at the time of the tragedy on Saturday, April 15, 1989.
However, Mr Jackson told the jury hearing the inquests into the deaths, he had been made aware of safety concerns over the crush barriers, their height and spacings, on the terraces at the stadium 12 months before the disaster.
One crash barrier gave way as 96 fans were crushed to death on the Leppings Lane terrace at Hillsborough as Liverpool FC took on Nottingham Forest in an FA Cup semi-final.
Mr Jackson said: “I had been told there was problems with the barriers and I had been told not to get involved with it.”
He said before he went on a visit to the stadium in 1988, his line managers said to him: “Just don’t go into that area. Not to stick my nose in.
“That it was politically sensitive and that I should keep out of it.
“There had been previous concerns over them.”
Christina Lambert QC, counsel for the inquests, asked if this caused him ‘disquiet’.
Mr Jackson said: “It was sort of the approach on safety generally and, in terms of things that happened at the council at the time, not terribly unusual.”
He said he believed ‘other parts’ of the council would deal with the matter and it was an ‘area looked after by somebody else’.
He said he made his own visit to Hillsborough to look at the barriers.
There he saw Dr Wilfred Eastwood, the club’s engineering adviser, a man, jurors have been told, of ‘strong opinions’ who ‘knew his own mind’.
Mr Jackson said: “I left it with the building surveyor and Dr Eastwood, who made it clear he did not want us there.”
Ms Lambert said: “But you could have no confidence that they would act on these problems with the crash barriers?”
Mr Jackson said: “I did not have any great confidence.”
The jury heard Mr Jackson had made a statement to West Midlands Police in 1989 and he described a ‘culture that contributed to the problem’ concerning the council’s approach to safety.
However, when he gave the statement to police, Mr Jackson said he did not ‘bring up’ the matter of being told to ‘keep his nose out’ of the barriers problem at Hillsborough.
Witnesses from the council, Sheffield Wednesday and South Yorkshire Police have been facing questions from lawyers for the coroner, Lord Justice John Goldring, and lawyers representing the families of the 96 victims who died.
The hearing in Warrington continues.