In June a high school in Chelmsford was fined after a child died when a locker in a changing room fell on top of him.
Nine-year-old Leo Latifi was fatally injured during after-school swimming lesson at the sports centre of Great Baddow High School in May 2019. The lockers, which stood prominently in the changing area, had doors missing effectively providing a ‘climbing frame’ which Leo and another child used. As the children climbed on the front of the unit it toppled forward. One child was able to jump clear but Leo could not and the locker fell on top of him.
An investigation by the HSE found that the, 180cm tall and 188kg, locker unit had not been secured to the wall to prevent it from toppling over despite the unit having fixing brackets as part of its structure. The court heard how a number of scenarios could have caused the unit to move including an adult stepping onto the lowest edge of the unit to pull at a stuck bag in in the uppermost locker or when cleaning the top the unit.
The school pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £16,700 and costs of £12,000.
After the hearing an inspector for the HSE stated ‘this incident could easily have been prevented had the school simply ensured the locker unit had been securely fixed to the wall, however it had failed to identify the risk associated with the potential for the unit to topple over and to put in place appropriate monitoring arrangements to ensure that it stayed secure.
At the inquest into Leo’s death last year, the jury agreed that this tragedy was significantly contributed to by a lack of appropriate assessment to a clear and obvious risk. This remained the case for around six years.
I therefore urge all organisations to urgently check that any free-standing furniture is appropriately assessed and properly secured, if they have not done so already.’
This follows a case earlier this year where an independent secondary school in Cambridge was ordered to pay nearly £63,000 in fines and costs following a fatal accident involving a member of the public in 2017. In this incident a family member of a student was visiting the school to watch an evening performance. Whilst walking toward the hall where the performance was taking place the visitor tripped over a low wall (30cm high) and fell sustaining serious head injuries from which they died six days later.
The HSE investigation found that the school had failed to ensure the area around the wall was adequately lit. The school had undertaken a pedestrian site safety assessment but this failed to identify the risk of tripping over the wall and did not take into consideration the lighting conditions or potential effect of poor lighting on pedestrian safety at night.
If you have any questions on any of the issues raised in the above article, please contact Gary Foggo.