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Leisure centre operator fined after child suffered burns

6 December 2013

The operator of an Essex leisure centre has been fined after a two and a half year-old boy suffered severe burns in the changing area of the centre’s swimming pool.

The toddler’s father, who does not wish to be named, was walking him to the pool after getting him ready for his weekly swimming lesson at the Great Dunmow Leisure Centre in Essex on 18 February 2012, when the little boy slipped and fell onto his bottom on a recently cleaned drain cover.

The drain had been cleaned with a drain cleaner containing sodium hydroxide – a highly corrosive chemical also known as caustic soda or lye, and used to dissolve grease and hair. The chemical burnt through the toddler’s swimming shorts and swim nappy and left him with third degree, full skin thickness alkaline burns to his buttocks and the back of his right thigh. He was immediately taken to hospital, where he stayed for 10 days with his family to receive emergency medical treatment including a skin graft.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard yesterday (5 December) that an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company had failed to put a robust system of work in place for cleaning this type of drain. This system should not only have included clear instructions on how the drains should be cleaned, but also established whose responsibility it was to clean drains. The company also failed to properly assess its use of chemicals and provide proper training on the use of these chemicals.

HSE inspectors told the Court that the leisure centre management team had also admitted they had been unaware of the presence of the chemical on site.

Leisure Connection Ltd, of Potton House, Great North Road, Wyboston, Bedford, was fined £45,000 with costs of £20,746 after admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Kim Tichias said:

“This incident, which left a little boy with life changing injuries, was entirely preventable.

“Leisure centre operators have a duty to ensure that members of the public of all ages can enjoy their facilities safely. This includes putting the appropriate training and system of work in place to manage the risks of using cleaning chemicals.

“HSE will always consider prosecuting companies which put people at risk through negligence.”

For further information about safety in leisure activities, visit For more information about working with chemicals, visit

Notes to Editors

1. Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator 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.

2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, states: “It shall be the duty of every employer and every self-employed person, in the prescribed circumstances and in the prescribed manner, to give to persons (not being his employees) who may be affected by the way in which he conducts his undertaking the prescribed information about such aspects of the way in which he conducts his undertaking as might affect their health or safety.”

3. Further HSE news releases are available at



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