Rochdale council fined after child loses fingertips in park gate

Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council was fined for safety failings after a child had two fingertips severed when they were trapped in a gate at a playpark.

Trafford Magistrates' Court heard how the two-year-old boy 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 Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, told the court it appeared the child was playing by the gate when one of the other children shut it, causing the hinges to close and creating a guillotin effect which severed his fingertips. However because of the child's age, it was not possible to ascertain exactly what happened.

The toddler had entered the park - designed for children under 11 years old - with his mother and three other children when the incident occurred on 20 August 2014.

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.

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, and the hole it had left had been filled in by park staff. 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: "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."

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