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Health and Safety Case Law Relating to Schools, Academies and Colleges

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There are a number of health and safety prosecutions of schools, academies and colleges each year. The following is a summary of some of the cases and the courts' findings. By studying these, school and college employers, can identifiy weaknesses in their own safety management system, implement improvements and thereby hopefully avoid injuries to students & staff. As a consequence of mananging their school or college's risks more effectively the establishments will be less likely to be subject to prosecution by the HSE, fire authority or local authority (food hygiene offences) and also be better equipped to defend civil claims.

The cases have been divided under topics. The date in the heading is the month and year in which the verdict was given. In most cases there is at least a two year period between the date of the incident and the start of a trial.

Design & Technology

A twelve year old schoolboy was in a design and technology class making animal shapes out of plywood on 25th March 2014. The class used hand saws and some were using a belt sanding machine.The schoolboy was using the machine for the first time, along with fellow pupils. They were shown how to use it by a fellow pupil and none knew the purpose of the metal guard for the sanding belt which was in a raised position. When the schoolboy put the shape to the belt, it flipped downwards into the gap pulling his left hand forward and trapping it between the shape and the belt. The top of the boys left hand middle finger had to be amputated down to knuckle and was absent from school for several weeks.

The teacher had not received adequate training to recognise that the machine was in an unsafe condition or recognise the risk of allowing pupils to use the machinery unsupervised and without suitable training. The design and technology class had been without a technician for 8 weeks prior to the incident; on the day of the incident the teacher was supervising the class alone.

The London Borough of Islington pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £19,865.

North Yorkshire County Council was prosecuted after a 14-year-old boy needed to have a finger amputated after it got tangled in a lathe during a lesson at Knaresborough’s King James’ School. The pupil was using a polishing cloth on a work piece as it rotated on a manual metal lathe during a design and technology class when the incident happened on 19 November 2013.

The boy’s right hand became entangled around the work piece and severed part of his index finger. There were six other mini lathes in use by pupils in the same class. He was given first aid before being taken to hospital. After an unsuccessful operation to reattach the finger, the pupil needed to undergo further surgery to amputate the finger to below the first joint. He has needed several physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecution found that the Council had failed to identify that the practice of hand-polishing on metal lathes was unsafe despite it being used for years at the 1,700-pupil school. The HSE served a prohibition notice on the Council, halting any use of hand-held polishing cloths on the lathes at King James’ School and advising the Authority to take action to ensure similar practices were not underway at other schools under its control.

The HSE’s investigation found that the Council’s assessment of potential risks of using of the lathes had failed to consider all the tasks undertaken on the machine and so had not identified the unsafe system being used by pupils. As such, pupils were routinely put at risk of injury. North Yorkshire County Council was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £28,287 in costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Asbestos

Kent County Council (KCC) was fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed at Lansdowne Primary School. Canterbury Crown Court heard how, on 6 November 2014, an environmental health officer was carrying out a routine food inspection when they noticed what looked like asbestos rope hanging from the ceiling. A prohibition notice was served on the now independent educational trust.

An investigation found that the asbestos flue and rope were disturbed when it was under the control of the County Council 18 months beforehand. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the flue and gasket rope were attached to a steriliser unit that was removed by the caretaker. The investigation also found that neither the caretaker nor the headteacher had any asbestos management or awareness training.

The Council failed to effectively to prevent exposure and failed to provide suitable training to those liable to be exposed to asbestos. Kent County Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10 (1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and were fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,500.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Golding said “The Council had implemented a system, but they had failed to take the simple step of checking to ensure it was being rigorously adhered to, resulting in employees not receiving the appropriate training. Organisations should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

An Essex school was fined after poorly-planned and managed refurbishment and maintenance activities exposed school staff and others to asbestos. The Court heard that managers at The Boswells School decided to convert an old boiler room at the School into a cleaning store. During the course of this work, asbestos residue on the walls was disturbed and caretakers swept contaminated debris from floors. Their exposure to risk only came to light after a later asbestos survey was completed in the area.

The investigation identified that asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) were also present in other areas. School caretaking staff and contractors disturbed the fabric of School's buildings over many years without being alerted to the presence of ACM’s. Persons who entered potentially contaminated areas were placed at risk of developing serious ill health conditions arising from exposure to airborne respirable asbestos fibres. The School also failed to ensure that spread of asbestos was prevented or reduced. The Boswells Academy Trust pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 – Sections 2(1) & 3(1). The trust was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

HSE Inspector Glyn Davies said after the hearing: “The Boswells Academy Trust should have controlled this potentially lethal risk by identifying the type, location and condition of any asbestos-containing-materials within the fabric of the school, and by implementing suitable precautions to prevent its disturbance. It should then have ensured that such information was shared with anyone liable to disturb this fabric. It may also have arranged for a licensed asbestos contractor to remove any dangerous asbestos safely before commencement of any work. “This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to schools but to all persons in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk from asbestos is carried out, and that correct control measures are put in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable.”

A charitable trust and a contractor it employed were fined for safety failings after disturbing asbestos and continuing to work in a building. The Williamson Trust is responsible for the running of a the Hundred of Hoo academy where Mark Tucker was contracted to refurbish a building block. The Court heard that in July 2012, knowing the Trust had an asbestos register identifying where asbestos was located within the School, work was carried out by Mark Tucker to refurbish a building block without consulting the register.

However, the Trust had failed to complete a refurbishment and demolition survey, and had failed to ensure that the contractors had the asbestos information they needed to carry out the work safely. The Williamson Trust pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, and was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £17,000.

Mark Tucker pleaded guilty to Regulation 13(2) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007, and was fined £9000 and ordered to pay costs of £8000.

Science

A chemistry laboratory technician lost parts of three fingers and sustained a serious internal injury while preparing a highly sensitive explosive for use in a ‘fireworks’ demonstration to a class of children. The now retired staff member lost the top joints of his left hand index, middle and ring fingers and ruptured his bowel while preparing the explosive at Bristol Cathedral Choir School. The laboratory technician spent 12 days in hospital after the October 2014 incident.He returned to work in February 2015, he has since retired.

During the court case it was revealed that the preparation of explosive substances had been carried out in the School several times a year since 2009. The mixture in question and other substances had been used in ‘fireworks’ demonstrations. Other explosive substances, namely flash powder and gunpowder, were being stored in the School’s chemistry storeroom. The HSE said the incident could have been avoided if the School had implemented clear management arrangements to control and review the risks posed by the chemicals used in its teaching activities.

Bristol Cathedral Choir School admitted that it failed to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees, in breach of its duty under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It also admitted failing to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in its employment, in this case its pupils, were not exposed to risks to their health and safety, in breach of its duty under Section 3 of the same act. The School was fined a total of £26,000 [£8,000 for the section 2 offence and £18,000 for the section 3 offence] and ordered to pay £12,176 costs.

Work at Height

Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard that on 9 May 2016 a teacher was conducting rigging and adjustments to spotlights and cabling in the School drama studio when he fell from a stepladder. A fellow teacher present in the room turned to find her colleague had fallen from the ladder and was unconscious on the drama studio floor having suffered multiple fractures to the skull, wrist and elbow as a result of the impact.

The Court also heard that the defendant, Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School of Barnet, North London, had inadequately risk assessed work at height in its Drama Studio and had failed to provide the teachers conducting the work with sufficient training for work at height, despite these matters being requirements in its own health and safety policy, and despite the presence of a health and safety e-learning tool available for teachers and other staff to use, which included a module on work at height, but which was only made mandatory after the incident.

Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, the legal entity controlling the Academy converter school, pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 6(3) of The Work at Height Regulations 2005, was fined £2000 and ordered to pay full prosecution costs.

A school in Brentwood pleaded guilty to breaching health and safety regulations after a worker was injured as he fell from a roof. The Court heard how in January 2014 a maintenance team at the School was working to replace components on a bay window of a residential flat within the School grounds. A 63-year-old employee was working on the roof of the bay window when his foot got caught and he fell approximately 2.6metres to the ground below. He was taken to hospital and was found to have suffered injuries including a broken collarbone and chipped vertebrae.

The investigation into the incident found that there were no effective guardrails or any other means of protection to prevent workers from falling from the roof. There were no supervisory arrangements and the work was not carried out in a safe manner. Brentwood School Charitable Incorporated Organisation pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005, and was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £6,477.10 in costs.

A school caretaker was fatally injured when he fell from an unstable ladder – which may have been built as a stage prop. Malcolm Bevan, aged 66, was killed when the ladder slipped and he fell only about two and a half metres while climbing into the loft at Plymstock School, a court heard. Mr Bevan and a colleague had found the ladder beneath the hatch when asked to fetch a bookcase from the attic near the drama department. The School stated that nobody knew where the ladder had come from – and the "best guess" was that it was a stage prop. The wooden ladder was too short for the job, had no grip on its base and no weight markings. Mr Bevan's legs were tangled in the rungs and he fell on his head.

Mr. Bevan died in hospital two weeks later. In an emotional statement read to the court, his widow Joan said: "His life was cut short by an accident caused by a failure to apply simple rules and regulations, which are not expensive and should have been in place. "For that I am angry with the School and will never be able to forgive that." But she urged that the secondary school was not given such a huge fine that the education of students would suffer. His honour Justice James Dingemans fined the school £18,000 and ordered that it pay £11,300 costs. He said he recognised the family's desire not to penalise children at the school. The money is roughly equivalent to the "unallocated funds" in the budget.

Judge Dingemans said: "The ladder was undoubtedly inappropriate. There was some suggestion that it was intended as a prop in a school play, though I am not in a position to make any finding."

The school had earlier admitted failing to discharge its duty to safeguard the health and safety of its employees, including Mr Bevan and Mr Freeman, on or before July 18, 2014.

In this case a school operator and a cleaning contractor were both fined. A 59 year-old from Gerrard’s Cross, was using a chainsaw to fell a mature sycamore tree at Bassetsbury Manor on 22 April 2013. He was helping one of the defendants, Paolo Mule, of P&X Complete Cleaning Services, to clear the site to make way for building work. They had been contracted by Alpha Schools Limited to carry out the work. Aylesbury Crown Court heard that a large partially cut branch swung down and hit the ladder the worker was standing on, throwing him to the ground where he landed on his back, sustaining permanent spinal injuries. He is unable to walk and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that Alpha Schools Limited failed to engage competent contractors to undertake the arboriculture work. The investigation also found that Mr Mule failed to undertake a risk assessment for the work. There was no safe system of work in place, with no ropes being used and the ladder was not secured. The work was not adequately segregated and there were members of the public nearby.

Alpha Schools Limited was fined £35,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It also agreed to pay an ex gratia payment of £50,000 to the injured worker. Paolo Mule, trading as P&X Complete Cleaning Services, was given an 18 months prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay £2,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Burnley College was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,600 in costs after an employee was severely injured when he fell three metres while changing an air filter on an extraction system.

The sixth form and further education college was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after an investigation found it had failed to ensure the work was carried out safely, despite specialising in teaching health and safety courses. Preston Crown Court heard that the 63-year-old engineering technician had needed to put his left foot on a cabinet and his right foot on the top rung of a stepladder to reach the filter.

As he did this, on 28 May 2013, the stepladder toppled from under him and he fell sideways, hitting a bench on his way down. His back was broken in several places and he also sustained a fractured breastbone. The employee required morphine for 12 days to manage the pain, was off work for five and a half months, and is likely to need to take pain killers every day for the rest of his life. He can now only walk short distances and has had to give up hobbies such as fell walking and DIY, which he carried out for his 85-year-old mother. The court was told the extraction system had been installed at short notice after the College secured a new contract to train nearly 300 employees from the aerospace industry on working with sheets of carbon fibre. The unit was needed to remove the carbon fibre dust generated by drilling and other processes but it was installed above a narrow gap between a cabinet and a fixed workbench. This meant the employee was unable to use the College’s mobile elevated work platform to reach the filter, which needed to be changed regularly.

The HSE investigation found his supervisor had witnessed him removing the filter in exactly the same way just over a week earlier, but had failed to take any action to ensure the work was carried out safely in future. The College had not given the employee any training on working at height, and had failed to produce a single risk assessment on work at height activities since moving to a new building in 2009.

Educational Visits/Outdoor Activities

An adventure activity and team building organisation has been fined after a child was hit by a car and seriously injured whilst on a school trip. Birmingham Magistrates’ Court heard how, on Friday 31 March 2017, a group of teenage school children from Birmingham were participating in a walking expedition on the outskirts of Birmingham. The route being taken required the group and their adult supervisor to cross the busy A45 dual carriageway near Meriden, West Midlands, at around 4pm. After waiting for a gap in the traffic some of the children started crossing the road when one of the pupils was struck by a car travelling in the outside lane. The 15-year-old suffered multiple fractures as a result of the collision.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Freax, the company responsible for the expedition had not planned the route to allow for safe passage across the dual carriageway. There were no specific traffic control measures in place at the crossing point used by the participants, and the company chose not to use a footbridge about 400 metres away as part of the expedition route. Freax Limited of Nechells Park Road, Birmingham was found guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The Company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £22,455.16 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Richard Littlefair said: “This case highlights the importance of planning for safety when organising such outdoor activities involving school children". “Children should be allowed to take part in challenging activities, however there is a balance to be struck between protecting children from the most serious risks and allowing them to reap the benefits of participating". “Companies should make sure that challenging activities are managed in a sensible and proportionate way so that children are not exposed to unnecessary risk of serious personal injury or death".

Canterbury Crown Court heard that a seven year old boy was at a summer activity camp run by St. Edmunds School. Whilst taking part in a scheduled swim he got into difficulties and struggled for over three minutes before becoming motionless in the water. The lifeguards noticed he was in trouble and retrieved him. He regained consciousness after CPR but did develop pneumonitis as a result of the incident.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation into the incident, which occurred on 1 August 2014, found that the lifeguards were not effectively managed and monitored to ensure that they were constantly vigilant. Two out of the three lifeguards did not hold a current, in date lifeguard qualification. St. Edmunds School Canterbury pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £18,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9669.19.

Two Scottish councils were fined 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. The 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 investigation found issues with staffing levels and lifeguard positioning at the pool, and the effective management of educational visits 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.

Essex County Council has been fined after a novice climber plunged seven and a half metres from an indoor rock face at a climbing centre in Harlow. The 15 year-old girl, from Ware was taking part in her fifth climbing club session at the Harlow Centre for Outdoor Learning on 8 March, 2014 when the incident took place. She was climbing on the indoor climbing wall whist being belayed by an eight year-old, who had only attended three previous climbing club sessions. On the day of the incident the eight year-old was using a certain belay device, for the first time. The climber lost her footing on the wall, but her younger belayer was unable to control her fall. She plummeted 7.5 metres onto the floor below. She suffered bruised internal organs, back and neck, as well as deep muscle tissue damage. She continues to suffer on-going pain from her injuries, and continues to need physiotherapy.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found the instructor was not competent to run this type of progressive climbing club session, as she did not have the required climbing training and site-specific assessment. The Court heard the instructor allowed the belaying to take place without use of an additional back-up belayer and without direct supervision from the instructor. There had been no use of a ground anchor or sand bag to counter the significant weight difference between the climber and belayer, and no application of safety knots to prevent the climber from falling to the ground.

Essex County Council, operating as Essex Outdoors, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,599 in costs, and a victim surcharge of £120 for breaching section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act, 1974.

Physical Education

Two Scottish councils were fined 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. The 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 investigation found issues with staffing levels and lifeguard positioning at the pool, and the effective management of educational visits 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.

The governors of a boys’ school in Tonbridge were prosecuted after a 14-year-old pupil was severely injured when he was hit by a shot put thrown by another boy. The incident happened during a routine multi-sport PE lesson at The Judd School on 20 June 2014. The pupil had left a triple jump area and was standing on the edge of the shot put landing zone to check a friend’s throw when he was struck on the back of his head by a shot. The student suffered life-threatening injuries and needed emergency brain surgery on a fractured skull. He returned to school but his injury has resulted in a permanent indentation at the base of his skull.

The Health and Safety Executive investigation identified the School had not adopted measures in its own risk assessment and PE guidance on multi-event lessons had not been followed. Sevenoaks Magistrates were told that there were 24 boys in the lesson, divided into six groups. The students were taking part in hurdles, long jump, triple jump, javelin, discus and shot put. It was a lesson format used regularly at The Judd School and the pupils had participated in similar lessons in previous years. The six sports were spread across the field but the end of the landing zone for the shot put was only about three metres from the end of the triple jump sand pit, where the 14-year-old was competing. When the whistle blew to mark the end of the session, he left the triple jump and went to the shot put to see how far his friend had thrown. At the same time, another pupil was completing his throw, turning as he did so he was facing away from the zone. The shot hit the pupil on the back of the head, causing a severely fractured skull and internal swelling. He was in hospital for nearly a month but was able to return to School the following term. The teenager was no longer able to take part in some contact sports and may suffer longer-term issues.

The HSE investigation found that the School had carried out a risk assessment for PE lessons. However, although it had referenced the guidance by the Association for Physical Education, it did not follow their recommendation that such lessons be restricted to a maximum of four sports with only one to be a throwing event. The School’s inclusion of six sports with three throwing events, had significantly increased the risks to pupils, as had the proximity of the triple jump pit to the shot put landing zone.

The Governing Body of The Judd School was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,375 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Magistrates agreed with HSE that the safety breach had been ‘substantial’

Gates

Salford City Council was fined £20,000 after a six-year-old boy with autism and learning difficulties lost the tips of three fingers when his hand was trapped in a school gate. The child was a pupil at Springwood Special Educational Needs Primary School in Swinton when the incident happened on 23 October 2012.

The Council was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after an investigation found the Council had failed to act on a report produced in April 2004 which identified the risk of children trapping their fingers in the outside gates. Action was only taken after the incident in 2012, when guards were fitted to 22 gates at the School. The Court heard there was an eight centimetre gap on the side of the gate when it was shut, but the gap was reduced to zero when the gate was pushed open, creating a guillotine effect. On the day of the incident, staff had opened the gate to allow ten children into the playground for their lunchtime break. However, the boy’s left hand became trapped in the gate’s hinges at some point when the children were walking through, and his fingertips were severed. He lost the tips of three fingers, with his middle finger cut off up to the first knuckle. Parts of his fingers were recovered and hospital staff managed to reattach two of them, but he now has reduced use of his hand and amputation injuries.

The Court was told that the risk assessment in place at the time of the incident advised staff to be vigilant and supervise children through the gates, but guards could have been fitted at little cost. This would have prevented children from putting their fingers in the gap by the hinges. Salford City Council was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £3,632 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Equipment

Queenswood School in Hertfordshire was fined for safety failings after a pupil suffered permanent paralysis when a swing collapsed. St. Albans Magistrates’ Court heard how in September 2011 a 13-year-old pupil at the school was playing on a wooden swing in an adventure playground. A Health and Safety Executive investigation found that the swing had collapsed because the supporting timbers had rotted. The heavy wooden cross beam of the swing fell onto the pupil’s head and neck causing spinal injuries that resulted in permanent paralysis. The School was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £90,693 in costs after pleading guilty to an offence under Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Alison Ashworth said “This case shows how important it is that schools and other providers of play equipment maintain them in a safe condition. This tragic accident could have been avoided had the School implemented the findings of its own risk assessment.”

Premises

The board of governors at a primary school was fined after a pupil’s fingers became trapped in a toilet door. Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how, on 29 September 2016, the four-year-old pupil, who had been at St Joseph’s RC Primary School for three weeks, was allowed to access the girls’ toilet alone. She was heard screaming by members of staff, who found her with her fingers trapped in the hinges of the toilet door. These injuries later resulted in partial amputation of her right middle finger.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the finger guard on the door was missing as one had not been fitted since the toilets were converted five years previously. The investigation also found there was no system in place for checking and monitoring the door guards. Staff had also highlighted to the former headteacher that the door was too heavy for young children to open.

The Board of Governors at St Joseph’s RC Primary school, of Market Street, Mossley, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and were fined £4000 with £1750.90 costs.

HSE inspector Lisa Bailey said after the hearing: “This injury could have easily been prevented if a door guard had been fitted and a system was put in place to maintain and monitor the guards. The risk should have been identified so that reception pupils were not permitted to access the toilets alone, or they should have been allowed to share the nursery toilets.”

A college in Surrey was fined after a student was struck on the leg by a tree as it was being felled. Redhill Magistrates’ Court heard how the campus supervisor of Guildford College instructed an employee and part of the estates team, to take two work experience students to fell a tree. While the tree was being cut two students arrived to observe the operation. The falling tree hit one of the students who was observing, causing fractures to one of his legs.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive into the incident, which occurred on 5 May 2015, found that there was insufficient training given to fell the tree competently. There was inadequate supervision and the risk assessments were not sufficient and had not been followed. Guildford College of Further Education pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £70,000 and ordered to pay costs of £3,461.

A Derbyshire school was prosecuted for safety failings after a pupil’s grandmother fell off the side of an unguarded staircase. The Court heard that 68-year-old Christine Bywater had been at Repton School watching her grandson play football. She had gone to the pavilion for refreshments with the rest of her family but on leaving the building by the outside steps, she lost her balance when she moved from a wooden staircase to a stone one. Mrs Bywater fell over the parapet on the stone staircase to the ground some two metres below and fractured three bones in her neck. She also broke the index finger on her right hand and lacerated her scalp.

The HSE investigation found there were handrails fitted to the wooden stairs leading from the pavilion to the stone staircase while the stone staircase had a 40 centimetre-high parapet running along the edge of the stairs but no handrail. Repton School pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(1), contrary to Regulation 12(5), of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 and was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £534 in costs.

A historic private school in Clitheroe was fined £100,000 over health and safety failings after one of its stonemasons developed a potentially fatal lung disease. The 55-year-old was employed by Stonyhurst College for almost 12 years where he was exposed to high levels of silica dust. He was diagnosed with silicosis in July 2011 – four months before being made redundant by the College. Stonyhurst was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after an investigation found that he and other stonemasons may have been exposed to more than 80 times the daily limit for silica dust. The Court was told the College employed the stonemason as a member of staff in June 1999 as the 200-year-old college buildings needed extensive repairs for wind and weather-proofing. A second stonemason was employed in April 2005 and a third in January 2009 to help with a major project to build a new four-storey, sixth-form building. The 21-month project required more than 400 tonnes of sandstone and the stonemasons spent their time working intensively with powered hand tools cutting, shaping, chiselling and finishing the sandstone.

The HSE investigation found Stonyhurst failed to take any measures to monitor or reduce the exposure of workers to silica dust, despite sandstone containing between 70% and 90% of crystalline silica. The Court heard that the College failed to recognise the risks and no equipment was used to remove, capture or supress the dust that was created by the use of the stonemasons’ tools. Two of the stonemasons worked regularly in the college workshop, which had no windows and no way of extracting the sandstone dust despite an extraction system being fitted in the neighbouring joinery workshop in 2004. Even after the College was notified that one of the stonemasons had developed silicosis in July 2011, it failed to take any action to monitor exposure levels until its two remaining stonemasons were made redundant in November 2011. The stonemason with silicosis has suffered serious and irreversible health effects as a result of his exposure. He has a reduced lung function, suffers from breathlessness and can no longer continue with his profession.

Stonyhurst was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £31,547.78 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.

A Bolton charity was prosecuted for safety failings after a nine-year-old boy with autism lost a finger when his left hand became trapped in a school door. The Health and Safety Executive took legal action against the Birtenshaw charity after an investigation found the organisation had failed to make sure all of the doors at its new special needs school in Bromley Cross were fitted with finger guards. The Court heard that the child, who also has learning difficulties, trapped his hand in the hinge of the door when he went into the ‘quiet room’ during his first few days in the new school building on 11 September 2012. He lost all of his index finger as a result of the incident. The Court was told that the charity, which runs Birtenshaw SchoolRoad along with several care homes, had identified the need for finger guards during the construction of its new school building. However, the Organisation failed to make sure the guards had been fitted before the new building opened to pupils in September 2012, and several doors were found to have missing guards.

Birtenshaw received a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £898 in prosecution costs after admitting a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

City of Edinburgh Council was fined after a schoolgirl was seriously injured when she fell more than five metres as teachers attempted to free her from a broken down lift.

Morgan Seaton, then aged 15, sustained three fractured vertebrae, bruising over her lower back and a sprained wrist as a result of the incident at Liberton High School on 8 December 2011. She remained in hospital for two days before being discharged and was unable to return to school for a further two weeks. The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive and a prosecution brought against the Council for serious safety failings. Edinburgh Sheriff Court heard that Miss Seaton was in the lift with three other pupils when it stuck between the first and second floors. She called the School’s office from her mobile phone and teachers quickly arrived and told the pupils to remain calm as they tried to affect a rescue.

Rather than use the emergency call button in the lift or call the fire service, teachers and the school janitor decided to fetch the lift key, open the doors and attempt to get the pupils out themselves. After opening the lift shaft doors on the first floor, staff could see that the bottom third of the lift car was visible at the top of the door opening. They forced open the lift car doors and spoke with the pupils who were trapped within. One boy was helped to lower himself safely out of the lift down to the first floor corridor. Miss Seaton then manoeuvred herself out of the lift on her stomach until she was suspended feet first out of the opening. One of the teachers stood behind her as she attempted to drop to the floor but instead she fell through the gap between the bottom of the lift and the floor and into the lift shaft where she fell over five metres to the basement.

After her return to school, Miss Seaton continued to suffer pain and discomfort in her back for several months and needed regular physiotherapy and medication. The Court was told the fire service had found on arrival that power to the lift had not been isolated and the car could have resumed moving at any time during the pupils’ ordeal or as the schoolgirl lay injured in the basement waiting for help to arrive. The HSE's investigation found that the Council failed to ensure that staff at Liberton High School had been given sufficient instructions, information and training to deal with such incidents, and that no suitable risk assessment had been undertaken. City of Edinburgh Council was fined £8,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.