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High school fined after pupil's climbing wall injury

Photo shows the climbing wall at Manningtree High School where a child was injured

An Essex high school has been fined for safety failings after a 14-year-old boy fell more than four metres from a climbing wall.

The teenager was one of four pupils selected to try their first-ever 'lead climb', a more advanced, mainly rock-climbing technique, during a PE lesson at Manningtree High School on 17 October 2012.

He had managed to clip on to three points as he ascended the climbing wall but struggled with the fourth. A fellow pupil, similarly inexperienced, had been told to 'belay' the rope for the boy, keeping it taut or feeding more as necessary. After the climber grew tired, the instructor told him to let go of the climbing wall, which he did.

However, instead of being supported by the belay technique, he fell unrestrained over four metres and hit the safety mat on the floor. The pupil, now 15, suffered a fractured heel bone, which was later pinned and plated.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Manningtree High School (on 7 June) at Colchester Magistrates' Court.

HSE found that prior to the lesson none of the four pupils were aware what lead-climbing was or the risks involved and none had been properly trained or prepared for the more advanced type of climbing that was being attempted.

In addition the school failed to have an adequate safety management system in place for lead-climbing, and the instructor was not competent to teach or supervise lead-climbing.

Manningtree High School, of Colchester Road, Manningtree, was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £1,641 in costs after pleading guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for failing to adequately protect the pupils against the risk of falls.


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