Council fined £13,000 after child loses two fingertips in playpark gate
A borough council has been hit with a £13,000 fine after a child had two fingertips severed when they were trapped in a playpark gate designed for children under 11 years old. Trafford Magistrates’ Court was told how the two-year-old boy trapped his fingers in an external gate of the children’s play area at Springfield Park in Heywood, which falls under the responsibility of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, resulting in the injuries to his left hand. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court it seemed the incident occurred when one of the other children shut the gate when he was playing near it, causing the hinges to close which severed his fingertips. The toddler had entered the park with his mother and three other children when the incident occurred on 20th August last year. Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council, of Smith Street, Rochdale, pleaded guilty to Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 on 3rd July and were fined £13,000 plus full costs of £1,317.
Jefferies is currently representing a child who lost a fingertip in the gate of a local park. The Council has accepted responsibility and it is now a case of waiting to see how the child copes with the injury and whether further surgery will be required. Obviously when children play – accidents occur. But children are entitled to be able to play in a safe environment and this means ensuring that the access into and out of playgrounds is safe, as well as the playground equipment itself.
In the Rochdale case, a risk assessment of the playpark had failed to spot that a stopper mechanism on the gate had been removed and not replaced, some 12 to 18 months prior to the accident, and the hole it had left had been filled in by park staff.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emily Osborne said: “All of the children using Springfield Park are under 11 years of age, and Jacob at only two years old was particularly vulnerable. Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council failed to make sure health and safety at the playpark met the minimum legal standards and put children visiting the play area at Springfield Park at risk over a long period of time. The risk of trapping fingers in the gate was not identified and no prior action was taken by the council to stop this from happening. It is simply not good enough to not identify a serious risk and do nothing to prevent it. A guard should have been fitted over the dangerous part of the gate or the stopper should have been replaced. “
Instead, a two-year-old boy suffered injuries that are likely to affect him for life as a result of the council’s failings.” A spokesperson for Rochdale Borough Council told Rochdale Online: “We are extremely sorry that a boy’s fingers were injured during a visit to Springfield Park in 2014. “The public should be reassured that although it was distressing for the boy and his family, it was an isolated accident and the systems the council has in place to ensure safety at our playgrounds are robust.”
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