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City council fined after teenager suffers electric shock at skate park

Date:
24 September 2013

Newport City Council has been sentenced for safety failings after a teenager had to have a finger amputated following an electric shock at a skate park.

The 13 year old boy, who does not wish to be named, was with friends at the skate park at Newport International Sports Village on 31 December 2011. He went to turn on floodlights unaware the electrical cabinet had been vandalised.

As he went for the switch, he suffered an electric shock resulting in amputation of his left index finger. He also required a skin graft on his middle finger.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which investigated, prosecuted the council at Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court yesterday (23 September) after identifying serious failings in the management of safety at the venue.

Magistrates heard the skate park’s floodlights were controlled from an electrical cabinet next to the park. The cabinet was secured via fixings at the top and bottom of the door and a hasp and staple secured with a padlock.

HSE found that the door of the cabinet had been forced open and vandalised so that electrical parts at 240v were exposed. A park ranger had identified that the cabinet was damaged on 23 December 2011, but no action was taken to repair it. There was a history of the cabinet being forced open and vandalism had occurred on three previous occasions.

The court was told the council failed to judge the risks properly and so control measures were not put in place, such as greater security measures for the cabinet or arranging for a residual-current device (RCD) to be fitted. There should have also been better supervision of the skate park and the electrical cabinet should have been marked to warn of the dangers.

Newport City Council, of Civic Centre, Newport, South Wales, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £5,000. The Council was also ordered to pay costs of £9,477.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Joanne Carter said:

"This was an extremely serious incident that has had disabling long-term effects on a young teenager.

"Anyone close to or touching the exposed live parts was in danger of serious injury from electric shock. The fact that the cabinet was located in a damp environment could also have made a shock more severe.

"It is disappointing that the health and safety management by the Council didn’t address the risks that manifested. They failed to put in systems to control the risk, did not communicate the risks to employees and did not inspect the cabinet. Nor did they improve the mechanical protection of the cabinet or mark it as being an electrical danger."

The skate park has now moved to Tredegar Park where the sub-station is in a secure building and floodlights are controlled remotely.

Guidance on electrical safety is available at www.hse.gov.uk/electricity

Notes to editors

  1. The 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. 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.

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