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November 21, 2008

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Children’s play centre condemned by local council

The owner of an indoor play centre in Bristol has been found guilty of multiple health and safety offences.

Sitting on 14 November, Bristol Magistrates’ Court heard that a council environmental health team visited the play centre after receiving numerous complaints from the public about the site. The inspection found numerous health and safety failings including a lack of maintenance to several parts of the play area, tripping hazards, a mouse infestation, a fire door chained and padlocked, and a separate fire door obstructed by electrical equipment.

The inspection also revealed a catalogue of fall risks throughout the site. One section of the play area, which was supposed to be cordoned off from children, offered no protection from a three-metre fall to the ground.

Investigators originally visited the site in April 2007 but the owner, Janet Walters, failed to respond to suggestions made by council officers. As a result a second inspection was carried out in May 2007 and Walters was served with three improvement notices, which ordered repairs to be carried out on electrical equipment, maintenance to the play equipment, and adequate control of trip hazards.

Walters failed to respond to the Improvement Notices before their expiry date, and in January this year a final inspection was carried out. As a result of the investigation, the council issued a hygiene emergency Prohibition Notice to close the business until the necessary work had been carried out.

Walters pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974, and three charges under s33(1) of the HSWA 1974. She was given a conditional discharge for two years and ordered to pay £1000 towards the council’s costs.

In mitigation, Walters said that she had taken over the business from a friend and hadn’t realised the extent of improvements that were needed. She also inherited a series of unpaid bills and wages that left her with a severe financial burden. As a result, she did not have the finances to carry out the relevant improvements.

Environmental health officer Heather Clarke told SHP: “If the centre had followed our advice, and had carried out regular maintenance and cleaning, these problems would not have occurred. The site also lacked proper supervision and children were left unattended to play on a free-fall slide.

“This was without doubt the dirtiest indoor play facility that I have seen in recent years and it was given plenty of opportunity to comply with safety and hygiene legislation. This did not happen and the safety of young children was put at risk.”

 

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