Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

July 9, 2015

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Court hears how toddler severed fingers in park gate

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council has been fined £13,000 for safety failings after a two-year-old boy had two fingertips severed when they were trapped in a gate at a playpark designed for children under 11 years old.

Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard how Jacob Salter trapped his fingers in an external gate of the children’s play area at Springfield Park in Heywood, resulting in the injuries to his left hand. The risk assessment for the gate in place at the time of the incident had only assessed the locking side of the gate and not the hinge side.

The toddler had entered the park with his mother and three other children when the incident occurred on 20 August 2014.

HSE told the court that because of his age, it was not possible to ascertain exactly what happened, but it seems he was playing by the gate when one of the other children shut it, causing the hinges to close, and creating a guillotine effect which severed his fingertips.

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 3 July and were fined £13,000 plus full costs of £1,317.

It was heard in court how:

  • the risk assessment in place at the time of the incident had only assessed the locking side of the gate and not the hinge side
  • the stopper mechanism on the gate had been removed and not replaced, some 12 to 18 months prior to the accident
  • the hole the stopper had left had been filled in by park staff; and
  • despite several inspections of the play park by various different members of Rochdale Council staff, nobody noticed that the stopper had been removed, and so the risk remained.

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.”

Jacob’s dad Craig Salter said: “The magistrates’ court maximum fine is £20,000, but because Rochdale Council pleaded guilty they got a reduction – so this was the maximum we could have hoped for.

“If Jacob knocks his fingers or in the cold weather he still feels pain, because there’s not a lot of padding on his fingers, and he’s expected to have more surgery.”

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