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Council Fined for an Accident in a School Workshop

February 23, 2017

Islington Borough Council has been fined £200,000 for a health and safety breach that resulted in a pupil losing a finger in an accident in a school workshop.

On 25th March 2014, the unnamed eleven-year-old boy was in a design and technology class when he went to use a Morris flex belt sanding machine to file his project. The boy had never used the machine before and was shown how to operate it by another pupil who was unaware of the purpose of the raised metal guard.

When the boy put his plywood project onto the sanding belt, the metal guard flipped downwards and trapped the boy´s left hand between the sanding belt and shape he was trying to sand. The accident in a school workshop resulted in the boy having the middle finger of his left hand amputated down to the knuckle.

Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the accident in a school workshop and found that the teacher in charge of the class had not receive sufficient training to identify the machine was in an unsafe condition or the risks involved in allowing pupils to use the machine unsupervised.

The HSE prosecuted Islington Borough Council for breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and, at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Deborah Taylor fined the council £200,000 for an accident in a school workshop plus costs of £19,865. Judge Taylor said: “I make it clear that, had this not been a local authority and bearing in mind the size of the organisation and the way it worked, the fine would have been considerably higher.”

Speaking after the hearing, an Islington Borough Council spokesman said: “This was a serious injury, which could have been prevented. We’re very sorry this happened and apologise to our student and his family. Since this accident in 2014 we have introduced comprehensive new procedures for health and safety in our schools.”

HSE inspector Jane Wolfenden added: “It is important to create a safe teaching environment for pupils where they can learn to appreciate and manage the risks they will face in life. If the teacher had been appropriately trained on how to use the equipment for the lesson, they would have been able to show the pupils how to properly use the sanding machine. Instead a young boy sustained an extremely painful injury that could have easily been avoided.”