• Robert Spicer


Those who ridicule health and safety as “Elf ‘n’ Safety” and who argue for deregulation and a reduction in red tape, need to be aware of the horrific consequences of breaches of health and safety law in reality.

A recent example is the prosecution of Great Baddow High School under section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work, etc., Act 1974 (HSWA). Section 3, in summary, requires employers to conduct their undertaking in such a way that does not pose risks to the health and safety of non-employees. It is designed to give protection to the general public and other non-employees such as contractors. For example, children at schools and patients in hospitals are given protection.

Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford was fined following the death of a nine-year old boy.

In May 2019 a nine-year old boy attended an after-school swimming session at the school’s sports centre. He and another boy were waiting in the centre’s boys’ changing room for their lesson to start.

The lockers in the changing room which stood prominently in the changing area. They provided a climbing frame for the boys. As they climbed, a locker unit toppled forward. It fell onto the nine-year old who suffered fatal injuries.

The locker unit was 180 cm high and weighed 188 kg. It was not secured to a wall to prevent it toppling, despite having fixing brackets as part of its structure.

There were a number of ways in which the unit could move, including an adult stepping on the lowest edge of the unit to pull a bag which was stuck in a top tier locker, or to clean the top of the unit.

The school was fined £16,700 plus £12,000 costs under section 3 of HSWA.

An HSE inspector commented after the case that the incident could easily have been prevented if the school had simply ensured that the locker unit was securely fixed to the wall. However, it had failed to identify the risk associated with the potential for the unit to topple over and to put in place appropriate monitoring arrangements to ensure that it stayed secure. He urged all organisations to urgently check that any free-standing furniture was appropriately assessed and properly secured.

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