In October 2012, pupils at the school were making their first attempt to lead climb, which is a more advanced rock climbing technique. They were under the direction of PE teachers trained in 'top rope climbing' as part of the GCSE syllabus. Under the instruction of the teacher, the climber let go of the wall believing himself to be supported, however, this was not the case and he fell 4m onto the safety mat. As a result he fractured his heel bone and required an operation so this could be pinned and plated and he was on crutches for over 14 weeks.
The school pled guilty to breaching section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which states
"It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."
Whilst the court heard that those in charge of the school were unaware the activity had been taking place for 18 months prior to the accident, it was held that they should have known what was happening. In addition, the court held that the pupils were not taught about the risks of lead climbing or given the proper training required to prepare them to safely carry it out, the school did not have an adequate safety management system in place and the instructor was not competent to teach or supervise lead climbing. The school have required to pay £7,500 towards the cost of HSE's investigation and over £1,600 in costs, on top of the fine.
Whilst this case is relevant to schools, it is also relevant to any organisation or education establishment which teaches sporting activities. It highlights the importance of having effective safety management systems in place and ensuring that anyone instructing and supervising specialised activities has the correct experience and qualifications to do so.