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January 22, 2021

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In court

Tower Hamlets council fined after death of child in playground

London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council has been sentenced following an incident in which a five-year-old girl died when playground equipment collapsed on top of her at Mile End Park.

Schoolgirl Alexia Walenkaki died in Mile End Park a day prior to her sixth birthday, when a rotting log swing collapsed on her on 17 July 2015. Alexia was swinging on a rope attached at one end to a wooden post, when the play equipment gave way. The post snapped at its base causing the wooden structure to collapse on top of her. She sustained fatal head injuries.

The HSE’s investigation found that London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council had failed to ensure that an annual playground safety check was carried out. Investigators also found the post was made from unsuitable wood, which had a lifespan of three years. The log was fitted four years before Alexia’s death.

The local authority had previously implemented a system of inspections to ensure that play equipment was safe to use. However, the play equipment at Mile End Park had not been inspected by a playground inspector since September 2013. The HSE suggests that if the equipment had been inspected and tested for signs of rot, the risk may have been identified and appropriate action could have been taken to remove and replace the equipment.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. They were fined £330,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,204.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Stephron Baker Holmes said: “Those who provide play equipment should ensure it is safe for children. The lack of a suitable playground inspection in the period leading up to this incident has resulted in tragic consequences.”

A spokesperson for the council confirmed that urgent safety checks of equipment at all council run play facilities were carried out following Alexia’s death.

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