The operator of Whithaugh Park in Newcastleton, Rock UK Adventure Centres Ltd (Rock UK), has been fined £7,000 after an incident in which a 13-year-old girl fell six metres when safety-critical parts of the equipment failed. The teenager sustained serious injuries as a result of the fall which occurred in 2008.
She was descending from a climbing tower using a ‘Parafan’, which allows individuals to descend from height in a controlled manner, simulating the effect of a parachute jump.
As the teenager made her descent, the Parafan’s axle bar came loose from its housing, causing the cable to which she was attached to snag on a metal joist and snap.
Scottish Borders Council’s (SBC) regulatory services staff conducted an investigation into the incident, enlisting assistance from a Health and Safety Executive Specialist Inspector in Mechanical Engineering.
SBC’s investigation revealed a number of findings which formed the basis of the charge before the court, including the failure of the company to identify that there was a risk of failure to install and/or maintain the safety components of the Parafan correctly.
Rock UK pled guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. After hearing from both parties at Jedburgh Sheriff Court last Friday, Sheriff William Taylor fined Rock UK £10,000, reduced to £7,000 to reflect an early plea.
Sheriff Taylor indicated the level of the fine reflected the poor financial situation of the charity.
SBC’s Health and Safety Enforcement Officer George Thom said: “As the operator of an outdoor activity adventure centre, Rock UK had a duty to ensure members of the public using the facilities were not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
“Rock UK failed to identify the safety-critical components of the Parafan. Information, training and instructions to staff operating the Parafan was lacking.
“The consequences were significant, and illustrate the importance of competent persons undertaking routine maintenance.”