Firm fined after Rotherham playground accident

The giant spinning net at Magna.
The giant spinning net at Magna.
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A children’s play equipment supplier is facing a bill of nearly £100,000 after a little boy’s arm and finger were broken in a giant spinning net at Magna.

The nine-year-old was on a school trip to the science adventure centre in Rotherham when his arm and finger got tangled in the net, leaving him needing surgery.

Magna Science Adventure Centre

Magna Science Adventure Centre

Sheffield Crown Court heard manufacturers Kompan Ltd were aware of a fault already, after three previous incidents at UK playgrounds.

And although they took steps to install safer mechanisms, they failed to issue any warnings.

Fining the firm £75,000, and ordering it to pay £17,000 in court costs, Recorder Paul Isaacs said: “The consequences could have been greater. The punishment should not only reflect what happened but also the risk of what might have happened.”

Prosecutor Ruth Cranidge said Kompan – a UK subsidiary of a Danish firm – had known for 22 months before the Magna incident that the safety chain at the top of its spinning net posed ‘a forseeable risk of serious injury’.

The suspended net spun from three wooden beams, but in 2004 the cable broke at a park in the Netherlands causing the net to fall.

A safety chain was added – but that meant when the net rotated the chain did not, and body parts could get trapped.

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In 2008 the chain was made shorter, after a nine-year-old girl in Brighton got her neck trapped and was cut from ear to ear.

The new chain was installed at 14 UK sites, but at Magna it was fitted incorrectly by a contractor. And in May 2009 there was a second incident in Brighton, where the new design had been installed. A 12-year-old girl suffered a broken arm.

“It’s the prosecution’s case the defendant knew both the original and new chains posed a real risk of entrapment and were not safe,” said Miss Cranidge. “They did nothing to modify the chain or warn customers there was a risk of injury to children.”

Another accident took place in Milton Keynes in 2008 when a boy’s hand was crushed.

In January 2011 a new design was launched but not fitted, and the incident at Magna happened in June 2011 when the boy got his right hand and arm trapped.

He broke one bone in his arm and twisted another. He also broke a finger.

He was taken to Rotherham Hospital where he underwent surgery.

Miss Cranidge said the boy, from Lincoln, had to be helped to the toilet for 18 weeks, slept in a chair for six, and had seven weeks of physiotherapy and counselling.

Kompan admitted breaching health and safety legislation.

Tony Watkin, defending, said the company ‘deeply regretted’ what had happened.

“Its philosophy is to deliver leisure and enjoyment to children. On this occasion it has failed,” he said.

Mr Watkin said the firm’s MD and chief executive had flown from Denmark for the court hearing, and the company had since carried out a ‘root and branch overhaul of systems and operations’.

After the hearing a spokesman said: “Kompan has always put safety at the forefront. In this case an update intended to address a specific risk did not prove adequate. 
Kompan acknowledges its responsibility and apologises to those affected.”

Stuart Ballard, operations director at Magna said: “We were extremely sorry that someone was hurt using our play area. 
“We carry out regular inspections of all our play equipment, but this accident was caused by a defect in the design.

“As such health and safety authorities have taken action through the court against Kompan Ltd, the company responsible for design and installation.

“As soon as the accident happened we removed the equipment from use and fully assisted the authorities with their investigation.”