Center Parcs pleaded guilty to failings under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 section 3(1) and was also ordered to pay £14,000 in costs following a prosecution by Central Bedfordshire Council.
The incident, which happened in October 2015 at the Woburn Forest Village Center Parcs in Bedfordshire, involved a member of staff supervising seven children in an organised tree climbing activity. The staff member was tasked with giving a safety talk to each child, fitting them each with a safety harness and clipping on a fall-arrest system before allowing a child to climb a tree.
The victim had already climbed a tree and then descended in a controlled way and was then unclipped from her harness by the instructor. The girl was then left unsupervised while the staff member attended to another child. Wanting to repeat the experience she then climbed up a rope ladder on another tree and after reaching between 8 and 10 feet fell backwards expecting another controlled descent. Not being attached to the harness she just fell backwards.
The court heard from the prosecution that only two rope ladders should have been in use at any one time. On the day of the accident seven rope ladders were attached to trees. While sentencing the judge concluded that the presence of a ladder to a child was an invitation to climb and given their age they would be unaware of the risks.
In its defense Center Parcs said that it had made changes in the way it runs its tree climbing activities.
Ian Dalgarno, executive member for community service at Central Bedfordshire Council said, “Our investigation found inadequate risk assessments in place, an unsafe system of work, and inadequate monitoring to ensure that the tree climbing activity was safe.”
Center Parcs released the following statement, “Center Parcs accepts full responsibility in relation to a regrettable incident involving a guest participating in a tree-climbing activity at Center Parcs Woburn Forest in 2015. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the family involved for the distress this incident has caused. We take the health, safety and well-being of our guests extremely seriously, and from the outset have co-operated fully and pro-actively with the investigation undertaken by Central Bedfordshire Council. As a result of this incident we immediately reviewed and amended our operating procedures in relation to the tree-climbing activity, and have continued to provide support to the family involved. Center Parcs welcomes over 2.2m guests each year to it five UK villages and we are proud of our excellent health and safety record over the last 30 years. We will continue to adhere to stringent health and safety policies and procedures in order to ensure our guests enjoy a safe short break with us.”
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