A leisure centre has been fined £40,000 for serious management failings after a seven- year-old child drowned in a swimming pool.
Luke Hutton and a group of friends were enjoying a day out with his mother at the Olympia Leisure Complex in Dundee. Luke apparently did not know how to swim but still followed his friends into the pool while his mother was in the leisure centre canteen.
The pool had an area known as a wave channel, which is where swimmers could go to feel the full force of the wave machine. Luke became separated from his friends and was last seen entering the wave channel while holding on to a float. The wave channel had a blind spot, which can’t be viewed by lifeguards, and it is thought that Luke lost his grip on the float while the wave machine was in operation, and subsequently drowned.
When the waves stopped swimmers were asked to leave the pool as it was the end of the session. Once the pool was empty, staff put the covers over the pool. A few moments later Luke’s mother informed the leisure centre that he was missing, and they began to search the site. Staff removed the covers from the pool and found Luke at the bottom of the deep end.
Following an HSE investigation the group that owns the leisure centre, Dundee Leisure, was issued with seven Improvement Notices. Five of the notices ordered the firm to carry out a risk assessment at five of its leisure centres, and the other two notices required it to have arrangements in place for health and safety, and to have a competent person in charge of safety at the Olympia Leisure Complex.
HSE inspector Peter Dodd said: “HSE recognises the undoubted benefits of children learning to swim and the skills this equips them with. Cases such as this are rare, but it illustrates what can happen when a non-swimmer is not given the full attention they require to enable them to use these facilities safely.”
Dundee Leisure appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court on 17 November and pleaded guilty to breaching s3(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £40,000 but no costs are awarded in Scotland.
The firm mitigated that it had no previous convictions and, following the investigation, it appointed a health and safety consultancy to carry out risk assessments at all its leisure facilities. It has also revised its admissions policy for swimmers to ensure that a responsible person accompanies non-swimmers at all times. It has subsequently demolished the wave channel.