This recent press release by HSE has caused a few rumblings in local authorities and amongst independent playground inspectors who now, as a result of the prosecution of such an inspector, fear that they will be next should an accident occur on equipment belonging to them or inspected by them.
The case relates to a child who was badly injured when a rotting wooden swing gave way whilst in use. Accidents do occur whilst children play, invariably as a result of something beyond the control of those responsible for the equipment’s maintenance. Prosecutions are also brought but the prosecution of an individual is rare. Why?
The facts of this case appear clear, an obviously rotten swing, that had been in poor condition, and had been deteriorating for some time failed. The person responsible for the inspection not only failed to spot the rot but recorded the condition as excellent. Post accident it was found to be quite the opposite and within the gift of any competent inspector to see, report and put the swing out of use.
My hunch is that the inspection was performed from the comfort of an office although that is merely speculation, however competent, thorough inspectors need not fear prosecution. The key factors in the case are not only that it was obviously rotten, but that it had been so for some time, the recorded condition was “excellent” but most significant was that it was entirely foreseeable that an incident such as this would happen.
For all these reasons and that the performance of the inspector was criminally short of the expected standard, prosecution ensued.
To all the competent, thorough and diligent inspectors – fear not. Doing your job properly will not lead to prosecution. This was an extreme example of either incompetence or complacency or probably both.