News & Views

Cotswolds-based activity firm cleared of charges after girl fell 10m

DC
BY Douglas Cameron
Health & Safety
BG Orange

A Cotwolds-based activity centre, Head 4 Heights, has been cleared of health and safety failings after a 10 year old girl fell from a 10m platform and suffered serious injuries.

The girl, who could not be named, was attached to a three-loop spreader bar, which should have held her weight as she jumped from the platform in a simulated free-fall. But half-way up the ladder to the platform she came back down, and when she re-ascended Russell had not secured the bar correctly, causing her to fall and break her wrist and dislocate her elbow.

Russell had mistakenly set up the device like a different product also used by the company. Health and safety consultant Stephen Flanagan told Gloucester Crown Court the device was new to the firm, and was introduced in ‘an uncontrolled way’ that ‘led to a failure to identify the increased risk of human error which would result.’

But company owner Baber outlined safety was ‘always our primary issue’ to the prosecution, local authority, Cotswold District Council. He said the firm undertook daily and monthly inspections, documented operational inspections as well as annual inspections. It also did independent inspections, with files going back to 2003.

The firm was standing trial for failing to make a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and failing to ensure that people were not put at risk. A psychologist, Dr Tim Marsh, supported the defence, stating there was an ‘excellent’ organisational culture within Head 4 Heights.

The local authority had claimed there was not enough paperwork on risk assessment, but Marsh said the ‘hands on’ approach was entirely appropriate’. He said it was ‘clear what they had to do’ and was too simple a task to have any benefit from being written down.

The firm was cleared of all charges by the jury who deliberated for three and a half hours on the case, acquitting them of the two alleged offences of failing to ensure public safety.

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