States Employment Board fined £50,000 after pupil loses tip of finger in accident

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Yesterday, the Royal Court heard that the boy trapped his finger in a gate in November 2018 and that the SEB were aware of the risks posed to children from gates and hinges.

Deputy Bailiff Robert MacRae said: ‘This was a foreseeable risk and we agree with the Crown that it was an accident waiting to happen.

‘We reject the assertion from the defence that the responsibility for this can lie exclusively at the door of the head teacher, that is incorrect.’

Crown Advocate Chris Baglin told the court that fencing and gates were installed as some of the school’s facilities were being developed. The school cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the boy.

The boy, referred to as Master A, was standing by and leaning on the gate while talking to a friend who was on the other side. Pupils are always asked to close gates when they have gone through them, and the victim’s friend closed the gate while the boy’s finger was in the hinge.

The gate closed completely, fracturing the victim’s finger and severing the tip of it.

He was taken to hospital and the tip of the finger was recovered, but it was not able to be reattached. He had to have an operation to prevent permanent damage.

Crown Advocate Baglin said that during questioning a staff member at St Helier Ironworks, who sourced the gate, said he ‘overlooked’ risks that came from the gate that was chosen.

He added that there was no handover when the work was finished and in the months before the accident, primary schools were sent information about concerns around children suffering finger injuries in schools.

Crown Advocate Baglin also told the court the contract for the gate did not go out to tender, the SEB had failed to act on risks in primary schools and described what happened as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

The gate was removed and replaced immediately after the accident and the SEB plead guilty, with Crown Advocate Baglin moving for a £20,000 fine.

Assistant Chief Minister Richard Buchanan represented the government in court as vice-chairman of the SEB.

Advocate Lee Ingram, defending, said the SEB deeply regretted the injury and experience of Master A resulting from this unfortunate accident and wanted to sincerely apologise to the boy and his family.

He added that the SEB had no knowledge of any risks that were posed or any alternatives that were available.

Advocate Ingram also said that the SEB accepted that warnings made should have been heeded by the school, but said when sentencing, the role of St Helier Ironworks – which installed the gate – should be taken into consideration.

He told the court he had questioned why St Helier Ironworks had not been prosecuted, adding customers, in this case the SEB, cannot oversee every single step of the process. The SEB was also ordered to pay £5,000 prosecution costs.

Following the hearing, a spokesperson for the SEB said: ‘The States Employment Board has today expressed its regret to the Royal Court after admitting a breach in health and safety, resulting in an injury to a boy in 2018. The board extends its apologies to the boy and his family.

‘The board accepted without question its duties and responsibilities and expressed its sincere disappointment that a contractor had failed to recommend, select and install the safest available gate.

In its admission to the Royal Court, the board set out the high standards and levels of control that it has over all aspects of health and safety. Contractors for the government must meet a high standard for health and safety, which is assessed before issuing contracts.’

Jurats Rozanne Thomas and Kim Averty were sitting.

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