Suffolk County Council Told To Pay Over £90k

Suffolk County Council has admitted breaching health and safety laws at three of its workplaces, including two schools.

Ipswich Magistrates’ Court heard the council faced six charges resulting from Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigations into incidents at Burton End Primary School in Haverhill, Farlingaye High School in Woodbridge, and the council’s highways department.

One charge related to an incident on 11 October 2009, when a nine-year-old Jamie Griffin  pupil at Burton End Primary School, was playing on a climbing frame in the school grounds when he fell over 1.5 metres onto concrete slabs below. He fractured his skull, suffered a bleed into his brain and was temporarily blinded.  It was 10 weeks before he returned to full-time schooling.

The HSE investigation found Suffolk County Council had ignored a requirement to provide an impact absorbing surface under the climbing frame and it had not provided the school with enough information to ensure pupils could play on the climbing frame safely.

Two other charges followed an investigation into an IT technician’s fall while he was taking down a screen at the back of a stage after a Farlingaye High School theatre production on 21 October 2009. 

Paul Rudland, 28, from Stowmarket, shattered his arm when he fell about 4m from a temporary aluminium platform, called a tallescope, which was being pushed along while he was on the top of it.  He needed a steel plate and nine metal pins inserted into the shattered bone and was off work for five months because of his injuries.

HSE’s investigation found that the council had not provided adequate training to its employees and had failed to monitor working at height in schools.

Three further breaches relate to the management of Suffolk council’s highways department, which employs around 120 roadworkers. These employees had been working with vibrating machinery over several years and four had developed the debilitating hand arm vibration syndrome.

The council admitted failing to properly assess the risk from working with the equipment and exposing its workers to harm and fined a total of £51, 000 and ordered to pay costs totalling £43,772.

After the hearing the HSE Inspectors who brought the prosecution, Julie Rayner said: “It is very disappointing to see a major employer like the county council repeatedly fall short of its legal obligations to protect its workers and pupils.

“These cases show the need for all organisations to ensure that they understand the risks in their business and take sufficient steps to manage and monitor them. 

“HSE will not hesitate to take action against any organisation, big or small, where it finds breaches of the law “