School fined over pupil’s head injury

Schools have been urged to check their risk assessments for PE lessons, including multi-sport activities, after a governing body was fined £10,000 over “life-threatening” injuries suffered by a 14-year-old pupil hit by a shot thrown by another boy.

The incident happened during a multi-sport PE lesson at The Judd School in Tonbridge, Kent, on 20 June 2014. The pupil had left a triple jump area and was standing on the edge of the shot put landing zone when he was struck on the back of the head by a shot thrown by another boy.

He needed emergency surgery on a fractured skull and was in hospital for almost a month. He returned to school the following term but now has a permanent indentation at the base of his skull, is no longer able to take part in some contact sports and may suffer longer-term issues.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that the school had not adopted measures in its own risk assessment and that PE guidance on multi-event lessons had not been followed.

At a hearing on 24 March, Sevenoaks magistrates were told that for the lesson, 24 boys had been split into six groups to take part in hurdles, long jump, triple jump, javelin, discus and the shot put, which was a format used regularly at the school.

The sports were spread out across the field but the end of the landing zone for the shot put was only about three metres from the end of the triple jump sand pit, where the 14-year-old had been competing.

The HSE established that the school had carried out a risk assessment for PE lessons but although it had referred to guidance from the Association for Physical Education, it did not follow the association’s recommendation that such lessons be restricted to a maximum of four sports with only one to be a throwing event.

The governing body of The Judd School, Tonbridge, Kent, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £1,375 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Golding said: “By not adopting the measures identified in their own risk assessment, The Judd School put pupils at serious risk leading to a 14-year-old boy being struck. He will have to live with the consequences of the incident for the rest of his life.

“It is vitally important that schools review their risk assessments for all PE lessons, but in particular for multi-sports lessons, to check that they are safe.”

The case highlights the wide range of health and safety issues of which schools and other organisations must be aware. While thorough risk assessments are crucial, these should be seen as “living” documents that require regular reviews, to ensure that they stay up to date and take into account all current activities and circumstances.

Palmers’ specialists can provide comprehensive advice to schools on health and safety issues to help them manage risk and provide a safe environment for pupils, staff, parents and other visitors. For more information on Palmers’ health and safety compliance services, please contact Lara Murray or for health and safety investigations and prosecutions, please contact Jeremy Sirrell.