Tragedy as young girl ssuffers severe burns on camping trip…
A borough council in London has been prosecuted after a teenage girl was engulfed in a fireball during a school camping trip.
The accident occurred when a schoolmate of the young girl poured methylated spirits on a cooking stove as she thought the flame was dying. However the resulting fireball set the girl’s clothes and headscarf on fire and she sustained severe burns throughout her body. She was transported to Chelmsford Hospital’s Special Burns Unit and was kept there for three weeks while her injuries were treated. She has since had a skin graft and has been left with permanent scarring as a result of the accident.
The girl had been on a three day camping expedition with her classmates near the village of Henfield in West Sussex when the accident occurred on 9 July 2011.
The subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the incident could have been prevented if some basic fire safety precautions had been adhered to. It was discovered that fuel was not kept in the appropriate containers and not stored in safe areas while there had been no formal training or supervision about use of the cooking stove.
The borough council was prosecuted as the leader of the camping group was employed by them and he had responsibility for the group along with two teachers who accompanied him and a school administrator. The council decided to plead guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £17,246 in costs.
HSE inspector John Crookes spoke after the hearing:
“This incident was avoidable and the failure to take simple safety measures has led to a young girl being unnecessarily scarred for life.
“Councils, schools and voluntary groups that organise camping trips involving the use of highly flammable stove fuel must ensure they implement effective precautions to prevent the ignition of fuel or vapour.
“A five-litre container of methylated spirits should never have been used to fill a camping stove. Any fuel needed for the trip should have been taken in containers incorporating a safety cut-off valve and kept away from ignition sources. There also should have been a better procedure to follow when filling or refilling the stove.
“This is not about stopping school trips or burdening staff with excessive paperwork. It is about identifying simple precautions and ensuring they are in place.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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