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Blackpool Council prosecuted over child’s head injury

Date:
24 October 2013

A ten-year-old boy sustained severe head injuries when part of a swing collapsed on him at a Blackpool park, a court has heard.

Blackpool Council was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation found the council had been warned that the swing needed urgent attention.

Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard that the child’s injuries, including a fractured skull, could affect him for the rest of his life.

Magistrates were told the youngster and his friends had been playing on a tyre swing at Claremont Park on 6 June 2011. The swing was connected to an arched metal beam overhead by four chains which hung down from a suspension mechanism.

The boy was underneath the swing when the rotating mechanism gave way, striking him on the head. He was in hospital for eight days, suffered a crushed and fractured skull, and the loss of vision in his right eye.

HSE found the council had arranged for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) to carry out quarterly inspections of its playground equipment.

A ROSPA engineer first alerted the council that the swing needed ‘urgent attention’ in March 2010 – over a year before the incident – as the suspension mechanism was not rotating properly. A recommendation was made to contact the manufacturer for further advice.

This warning was repeated in the following three inspection reports but the council did not act on it. The investigation concluded that poor repair work carried out on the swing in 2009 was likely to have contributed to its deterioration, meaning the same issue is unlikely to occur on other similar swings.
Blackpool Council, of Corporation Street, was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £20,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 on 23 October 2013.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Michael Mullen said:

“A ten-year-old boy suffered a potentially life-threatening head injury when playing at a local park because Blackpool Council failed to act on information generated by its own health and safety management system.

“The council first received written advice from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in March 2010 that the swing needed urgent attention. That advice couldn’t have been clearer, and was repeated in several quarterly reports, but the council failed to do anything about it.

“We are satisfied that the swing was entirely safe when it was first installed in the park, but the council allowed its condition to deteriorate following a poor repair in 2009.

“There was simply no point in the council paying for a specialist engineer to inspect its playground equipment if it wasn’t going to act on the advice. If the swing had received urgent attention, as recommended, then the horrific injuries the boy suffered could have been avoided.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulation for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press.

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