A health and safety investigation by Hounslow Council has resulted in leisure club David Lloyd being fined.
Published: Wednesday, 16th November 2016
A health and safety investigation by Hounslow Council has resulted in leisure club David Lloyd being fined over £350, 000 after pleading guilty to an incident where a five-year-old boy was almost fatally injured in one of their swimming pools.
The high-end fitness firm notified the Council’s health and safety officers of the incident at its Heston branch, Southall, in February 2013 where Blakeney Dear, formally of Hounslow was ‘drowned/ asphyxiated’ at a ‘kids holiday active’ session. It is the biggest fine that has been given in any investigation brought by Hounslow Council.
The near tragedy occurred after Blakeney, a non-swimmer was allowed to take part in the half-term swimming activity without armbands, which went against the club’s rules for non-swimmers or ‘poor’ swimmers.
Staff were directly informed by Blakeney that he could not swim but despite this, he was not constantly supervised during the two-day swimming activity he took part in on 19 and 20 February 2013.
On the second day of his activity session, staff failed to support Blakeney in the water and he lost his ability to keep himself afloat with any floatation aid.
This resulted in him being found underwater by another child taking part in the activity, who was asked by the lifeguard to go over and tell Blakeney to stop ‘bobbing’ up and down in the pool.
It is estimated that Blakeney was underwater for approximately five minutes before being pulled out and given CPR by the club’s lifeguard. CPR was also undertaken by paramedics when they arrived.
Blakeney was kept in hospital under observation for two nights but sustained no lasting injuries.
The council’s investigation found a series of failures that led to the incident taking place.
Staff working on day one of the activity who became aware that Blakeney could not swim failed to act when they realised he had no armbands and none were available at the club.
This critical information was not passed to the Family Active Co-ordinator. As a result, staff working on day two of the activity were also unaware of Blakeney’s inability to swim before the activity started. When one of the team members became aware, after he told her, he was still allowed by staff to stay in the pool.
The significant difference on day two of the activity was that the team member in the pool advised Blakeney and two other non-swimmers to come to her if they needed a Woggle [floatation swimming aid].
The team member in the pool failed to constantly supervise Blakeney for most of the time he was in the pool. Significantly, without any physical support from the staff member in the pool or use of a floatation aid, Blakeney’s standing height was below the depth of the water level, which was 1.2 metres deep.
Blakeney initially had a floatation aid and was seen holding onto the poolside wall but eventually lost his ability to stay above the surface of the water once he drifted away from the poolside.
As a result of the investigation’s finding, David Lloyd Leisure was charged with an offence under s.3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) for failing at its Heston-based club on 19 to 20 February 2013 to have taken all reasonably practicable measures for Blakeney’s safety while he was engaged in swimming sessions.
David Lloyd was fined £330,000, ordered to pay £22,131.75 in court costs and a victim surcharge of £120, with the overall amount of £352, 251.75.
Councillor Sue Sampson, Cabinet Member for Community Protection, Hounslow Council, said:
“This serious incident could have resulted in a fatality. Thankfully the child involved has suffered no lasting consequences.
“The Council’s thorough investigation has shown that the activity was meant to be run in a structured way, but instead the children were allowed into the pool for “free play” sessions.
“The situation could have been avoided if the club had ensured that staff given the role of running and supervising the swimming activity, and parents enrolling their children to take part, were made aware that children should either be competent swimmers or needed to wear armbands at all times.
“Lessons have been learned by all involved and David Lloyd’s guilty plea has shown how seriously they have treated the incident.”
A spokesman for David Lloyd said: "The safety and security of our members is our number one priority, and we would like to express our deepest and most sincere apologies to Blakeney and his family for the distress caused.
"It was an unacceptable breach of our child safety policies and we want to reassure everyone that we have taken stringent measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
"Following our investigation, we have extensively reviewed our safety policies to ensure the well-being of children in our clubs continues to be safe-guarded at all times.
"Those policies are embedded into the training that all team members working with children undergo, and we take firm and immediate action if any of the processes are not adhered to.
"We can confirm that the team members supervising the session are no longer with the business."