Father found four-year-old unconscious in swimming lesson, court hears
A council has been fined £75,000 after a four-year-old boy, who could not swim, nearly drowned during a swimming lesson.
Evan Rhys Davies was taking part in a mix-age and ability play session at the end of his swimming lessons at Bro Ddyfi Leisure Centre when he got into difficulty. At that time the lifeguard had left his station to put out lane ropes for the next lesson. Evan’s instructor Bethany Byrne was talking to fellow teachers, who were engaged in other tasks (completing forms) or in conversation with each other or parents and had her back to Evan, the court heard.
Simon Parrington, prosecuting, said Evan’s father Gryffydd Rhys Davies arrived at the pool to collect him but could not see him amongst other children taking part in a three-minute free play session.
He went to the side of the pool where he spotted him lifeless and underwater. He was pulled from the water but he was not breathing and his lips had turned blue.
Another parent revived Evan and he was taken to Bronglais hospital. Although deprived of oxygen, he later made a full recovery.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the Council had failed to properly risk assess the swimming lessons and in particular that part of the lesson where mixed abilities and ages were allowed to take part in free play. They did not define the position or roles of the staff to supervise free play, failed to deal with the distraction caused by parents coming onto the pool side at the end of lessons and during free play and failed to give adequate time or resource between sessions to reconfigure the pool lane ropes (each session began and finished on the half hour).
Powys County Council pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, section 3(1) and regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and fined £75,000 and ordered to pay costs of £16,000.
HSE Inspector Gary Martin, said: “Free play for children learning to swim is an important activity in building their confidence in the water. However, the risks of mixing swimmers of limited ability with children who may be older or stronger in the water must be managed correctly. The council could have taken simple steps that would not have led to a parent’s worst nightmare of finding their child floating unconscious in a swimming pool. Evan is lucky his father turned up when he did.”
Richard Lynagh, representing Powys council, said the classes had been running for 14 years without any incident or any concern being raised. They were later cancelled.
Judge Geraint Walters said the lack of effective supervision was the main cause of the near tragedy, but there had also been systematic failures in not carrying out a proper risk assessment.
“The staff took their eye off the ball. The risk had not been addressed at all,” he added.
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