The government has been fined £50,000 by the Royal Court after a school gate trapped a little boy's finger, fracturing it and severing the tip.
Charged with a single breach of Jersey’s Health and Safety regulations, the case against the States Employment Board (SEB) was heard by the Deputy Bailiff yesterday.
As the Board employs all staff members within the relevant Government departments and the school in question, it is legally responsible for the health and safety of any person on the school’s grounds and therefore for the breach leading to the young child's injury.
Prosecuting, Crown Advocate Chris Baglin said incident took place during the children’s lunch break.
Pictured: The case was heard by the Royal Court.
Detailing the circumstances of the incident, the prosecutor said that Master A “was standing on the low wall immediately next to the closed gate, talking to a friend through the fencing. He was holding onto the fence with his right hand whilst his left hand was holding the gate.”
Advocate Baglin went on: “Whilst they were talking, Master A’s friend opened the gate which trapped Master A’s left ring finger. The design of the gate was such that the gap between the gate and its frame closed completely when the gate was opened. The tip of Master A’s finger was severed, and his finger was fractured. He was treated by qualified first aid trained school staff immediately.”
The child was then taken to the Accident and Emergency Department and, although the severed tip of his finger was retrieved after the accident, it could not be reattached during surgery.”
The incident was reported to the Health and Safety Inspectorate (HSI) and an investigation was opened.
In a report, the HSI Inspector commented that “the design of the gate and the specific position of the hinges created a foreseeable finger trap hazard when the gate was opened".
Pictured: CYPES Director General Mark Rogers acknowledged that children should be protected against health and safety risks.
The Court was also told that nine months before the accident, “an email was circulated to all head teachers and senior leads by Nick Jewell, Head of Facilities Management for CYPES [Department of Children, Young People Education and Skills, ed.], expressing concern over five recent reportable finger injuries to children at school and highlighting particular risk factors that schools should be alert to”.
In interview with the HSI, CYPES Director General Mark Rogers acknowledged that SEB is responsible for ensuring that children attending the school should be protected against any risks to their health and safety.
Mr Rogers also confirmed that “he is responsible for ensuring that all arrangements that have been agreed are being employed across departments and checking that those arrangements are effective but that ultimate responsibility sits with [SEB]".
Filling in the background of how this particular gate came to be installed, the Crown Advocate told the Court that St. Helier Ironworks was contracted by the Education Department to supply the fencing and gates at the school.
Advocate Baglin explained: “The company has provided goods and services for the Education department, in its various guises, for some 35 years. As such, St. Helier Ironworks were fully aware that the project and the gates in particular would be in use by primary school children in a supervised school environment.”
However, when choosing from a selection of gate designs from a UK-based manufacturer, the Ironworks “did not choose one of the specified options which would have eliminated finger traps".
When asked about this by the Health and Safety Inspectorate, a representative of the company who filled in the order form, said that he “must have overlooked that”.
Advocate Baglin said that “at no time was the unsuitability of the final gate designs for use in schools and playgrounds identified".
The SEB was represented by Advocate Lee Ingram.
The case was presided over by the Deputy Bailiff, Robert MacRae, sitting with Jurats Rozanne Thomas and Kim Averty.
Ultimately, the Court fined the Board £50,000 and ordered that they pay the prosecution’s costs to the value of £5,000.
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