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Councils sentenced over safety breaches in Stonehaven pool incident

Date:
12 August 2015

Two Scottish councils were fined today after an incident in which a child was found at the bottom of a local swimming pool. 

Both Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council pleaded guilty to safety breaches when they appeared in court today. 

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that on 28 June 2012, an 11-year-old pupil from Ferryhill Primary School attended Stonehaven Open Air Pool as part of an educational excursion. During the visit he became submerged under water and was recovered unconscious from the bottom of the pool by a member of the public.

The court was told that the party of 23 pupils, the teacher and a teaching assistant arrived on the day of the excursion but no formal booking had been made. However, the pupils were allowed to swim in the pool which water depth ranges from 0.8 metres in the shallow end to 2.2 metres at the deep end, with a water slide located at the deep end. 

While the pupils were using the pool and slide, a member of the public using the pool noticed a shadow under the water at the deep end. On further investigation he found the child lying on the bottom of the pool, he recovered the unconscious child and lifted him onto the poolside. 

The alarm was raised and lifeguards were alerted. He was not breathing and had no palpable pulse, but CPR was successfully administered by lifeguards and the pupil has since made a full recovery.

Ferryhill Primary School is an Aberdeen City Council facility and Stonehaven Open Air Pool is operated by Aberdeenshire Council. The subsequent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found issues with staffing levels and lifeguard positioning at the pool, and the effective management of educational excursions at the school. 

Both parties pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Aberdeen City Council was fined £9000 while Aberdeenshire Council was fined £4000.

After the hearing, HM Inspector of Health and Safety Sarah Forbes said: “Educational excursions have clear benefits to pupils and many thousands of such excursions occur each year without incident.

“This specific incident was easily preventable however today’s proceedings should not deter those who organise or participate in such activities.  Those organising educational excursions must consider foreseeable risks and take reasonable steps to reduce these.  Managed properly, swimming pools provide a safe place for fun and exercise.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) 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. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: www.legislation.gov.uk/
  3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk
  4. In Scotland, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has sole responsibility for the raising of criminal proceedings for breaches of health and safety legislation.

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