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Council fined £20,000 after disabled boy loses fingertips

April 8 2014

A city council has been fined £20,000 after a six-year-old boy with autism and learning difficulties lost the tips of three fingers when his hand was trapped in a school gate.

The child was a pupil at Springwood Special Educational Needs Primary School on Barton Road in Swinton when the incident happened on 23rd October 2012.

Salford City Council was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on 4th April after an investigation found the authority failed to act on a report produced in April 2004 which identified the risk of children trapping their fingers in the outside gates.

Action was only taken after the incident in 2012, when guards were fitted to 22 gates at the school.

Manchester Crown Court was told there was an eight centimetre gap on the side of the gate when it was shut, but the gap was reduced to zero when the gate was pushed open, creating a guillotine effect.

On the day of the incident, staff had opened the gate to allow 10 children into the playground for their lunchtime break.

However, the boy’s left hand became trapped in the gate’s hinges at some point when the children were walking through and his fingertips were severed. He lost the tips of three fingers with his middle finger cut off up to the first knuckle.

Parts of his fingers were recovered and hospital staff managed to reattach two of them, but he now has reduced use of his hand and amputation injuries.

The court was told that the risk assessment in place at the time of the incident advised staff to be vigilant and supervise children through the gates, but guards could have been fitted at little cost.

This would have prevented children from putting their fingers in the gap by the hinges.

Salford City Council, of Chorley Road in Swinton, was also ordered to pay £3,632 in prosecution costs after admitting to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emily Osborne said: “All of the children at Springwood Primary School have special educational needs and many have profound and multiple learning difficulties, so are particularly vulnerable.

“Salford City Council failed to make sure health and safety at the school met the minimum legal standards and put these children at risk over a long period of time.

“Teachers did their best to supervise children through the gates and follow the risk assessment to avoid fingers being trapped, but no action was taken by the council to prevent this from happening.

“It is simply not good enough to identify something as being a serious risk but then to do nothing about it, and a guard should have been fitted over the dangerous part of the gate. Instead, a six-year-old boy suffered injuries that are likely to affect him for life as a result of the council’s failings.”

Salford City Council has apologised and said it was implementing procedures to ensure that this type of incident can never happen again.

If you have suffered personal injury at work, call PM Law solicitors in Sheffield on 0114 2965444.