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The importance of effective risk assessment for school visits

A group of teenage school children were participating in a walking expedition.  On attempting to cross a dual carriageway one of the pupils was struck by a car and suffered multiple fractures.  Following an HSE investigation and subsequent prosecution the organisers were fined £10000 and ordered to pay £22455.16 in costs.

 

The adventure activity and team building exercise involved a walking expedition on the outskirts of Birmingham.  The route being taken required the group and their adult supervisor to cross the busy A45 dual carriageway at around 4pm.  After waiting for a gap in the traffic some of the children started crossing the road when one of the pupils was struck by a car travelling in the outside lane.  He sustained multiple fractures as a result of the collision.  There were no specific traffic control measures in place at the crossing point used by the participants, and the leader chose not to use a footbridge about 400 metres away as part of the expedition route.

 

Following the hearing an HSE inspector said  “This case highlights the importance of planning for safety when organising such outdoor activities involving school children.  Children should be allowed to take part in challenging activities, however there is a balance to be struck between protecting children from the most serious risks and allowing them to reap the benefits of participating.  Companies should make sure that challenging activities are managed in a sensible and proportionate way so that children are not exposed to unnecessary risk of serious personal injury or death.’’

 

The above highlights the requirement for effective and robust risk assessments both prior to the trip and dynamically during the trip.  Whilst we must all strive in the first instance to protect those pupils in our care, the possibility of prosecution and fines together with reputational issues emphasises the importance of thorough planning of any educational visit or activity.

 

A revised guide to educational visits is being prepared by the Health and Safety Team and School Support Services and will be published later this Term.

11 Sep 2019

Author
John Throssell
Health and Safety
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