Leisure centre fined over child's burns

The operators of a leisure centre in Essex have been hit with a fine after a child suffered serious chemical burns.

Jurors at Chelmsford Crown Court were told by Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecutors that a toddler and his father, neither of whom wish to be named, were walking towards the pool at Great Dunmow Leisure Centre on February 18th 2012 when the child slipped and fell.

As he hit the ground, he struck a drain cover that had been recently cleaned with sodium hydroxide, a corrosive chemical that dissolves grease and hair.

The strength of the substance was particularly high and the caustic soda burned through the child's swimming shorts and nappy, leaving him with a third degree burn. The youngster was rushed to hospital, where he received an emergency skin graft and was kept in for ten days.

A later HSE investigation found the operators behind Great Dunmow Leisure Centre failed to put a proper system of work in place to deal with hair clogs in these types of drains.

Bosses at the firm were also told they should have assessed their usage of chemicals and provided proper training on how to use them so staff would know not to leave it on open surfaces.

Leisure Connection was given a fine of £45,000 with costs of £20,746 after admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Kim Tichias said: "This incident, which left a little boy with life changing injuries, was entirely preventable.

"Leisure centre operators have a duty to ensure that members of the public of all ages can enjoy their facilities safely. This includes putting the appropriate training and system of work in place to manage the risks of using cleaning chemicals.

"HSE will always consider prosecuting companies which put people at risk through negligence."

It is unclear if the family of the boy injured will now go on to make a compensation claim, as they may be entitled to do so after Leisure Connection admitted liability.