Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

August 13, 2015

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Councils sentenced after boy found unconscious in pool

Two Scottish councils have been fined after an incident in which a child was found at the bottom of a swimming pool during a school excursion.

A member of the public discovered the 11-year-old’s unconscious body at the deep end of the pool and lifted him onto the poolside where CPR was successfully administered.

Following an HSE investigation into the incident, which found issues with staffing levels and lifeguard positioning at the pool, and the effective management of educational excursions at the school; both Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeenshire Council pleaded guilty to safety breaches.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that the pupil from Ferryhill Primary School attended Stonehaven Open Air Pool as part of an educational excursion on 28 June 2012. 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 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.”

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