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Swim school fined after girl, 3, suffers chemical burns

PUBLISHED: 15:44 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 20 September 2019

Chelmsford Magistrates Court Picture: ARCHANT

Chelmsford Magistrates Court Picture: ARCHANT

A three-year-old child suffered severe burns after sitting in a puddle of corrosive cleaning fluid while learning to swim in Colchester, a court heard.

First Strokes Swim Schools Ltd, which operates a purpose-built teaching pool in Stanway, Colchester, pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court today to breaching three health and safety offences and failing to comply with two improvement notices, following the poolside incident on May 22, 2018.

The company failed to properly assess the pool water treatment and cleaning chemicals used at the site, District Judge Woollard heard, and failed to supervise the work of contractors.

The case was brought by Colchester Borough Council, after an investigation by its health and safety officers.

The child had been attending a swimming class at First Strokes and was sat by the pool waiting for her lesson to start when she began to complain her leg was hurting, the court heard.

She was taken to Colchester General Hospital, where doctors confirmed she had first and second degree burns.

Her mother also reported pink bleach marks on her clothing, where she had carried her daughter.

First Strokes admitted a contractor had carried out maintenance work earlier in the day using the company's own supply of sodium hypochlorite to hand-dose the pool water - tipping an unknown quantity from a 20-litre container into each end of the pool.

It was alleged a small amount of the chemical had spilt onto the side of the pool, where the child later sat.

Council officers served First Strokes Swim Schools Ltd two improvement notices for its lack of COSHH assessments and no safety system for hand-dosing the pool with water treatment chemicals.

Although the firm later provided several policy documents, they were received after the expiry of the improvement notices, and neither the COSHH assessments nor the hand-dosing procedure submitted were deemed suitable enough by the investigator to demonstrate compliance with the improvement notices.

Mike Lilley, the council's portfolio holder for communities, wellbeing and public safety, said: "As a result of failures to implement simple procedures to protect the public from exposure to hazardous substances, a vulnerable child was harmed. We will always investigate any breaches of health and safety regulations reported to us and where they meet the required legal threshold, those found to be breaking the law will be prosecuted."

Judge Woollard fined the company £10,500 and ordered it to pay Colchester Borough Council £2,350 in costs and an £170 victim surcharge - in four monthly instalments.

Representatives for First Strokes Swim Schools Ltd declined to comment on the case.

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