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May 14, 2009

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Young girl nearly asphyxiated on go-kart

A 13-year-old girl nearly died of asphyxiation while driving a go-kart when her scarf got caught in the vehicle’s rear axle.

The girl was enjoying a family day out at the TRAQ motor sports circuit in Mitcham, Surrey, when the accident took place, on 14 April 2008. She was close to completing a 10 minute session on the go-kart track when she slowed to turn a corner, and her pashmina scarf became tangled. As a result result, her neck was pulled backwards, causing her back to become arched over the kart seat.

A family who were waiting to go on the track witnessed the incident, and rushed over to help the girl. They managed to free her and she lay unconscious until the track operator arrived a few moments later and began to resuscitate her.

She was transported to hospital by air ambulance and kept in for three days. A subsequent visit to a plastic surgeon revealed that she has been left her with permanent scarring to her neck.

The track operator, Terrence Colliver, was served with four Improvement Notices by London Borough of Sutton Council. These ordered him to undertake a sufficient risk assessment, ensure that the karts are tested and examined by a competent person, install preventative measures to dangerous parts, and put in place planning controls and monitoring of these measures.

Colliver appeared at Croydon Crown Court on 24 April and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) and s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £5000 for the s2 offence and £5000.01 for the other, as the judge wanted to highlight that this was the more serious offence. He was also ordered to pay full costs of £3365 to Sutton Council.

In mitigation, Colliver said he had no previous convictions and had fully complied with the terms of the Improvement Notices. He has improved safety signage at the track, and customers are now obligated to wear protective overalls when driving the karts. Guarding has also been installed to all vehicles to prevent access to the dangerous parts.

Sutton Council principal environmental health practitioner, Kate Nicholls, told SHP: “We carried out an inspection at the track in November 2007, and if Mr Colliver had taken on board our suggestions he could have taken steps, which would have helped prevent this accident.

“If he had carried out a proper risk assessment he would have become aware that he needed to give proper safety briefings to customers, and also ensure that they wore protective overalls. It would also have become apparent that karts required guarding to be installed to prevent access to the dangerous parts. If these steps had been taken, it is likely that the accident would have been avoided.”

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