School fined after nine-year-old boy died when a changing room locker fell on him

·3-min read
Leo Latifi (Family handout / PA)
Leo Latifi (Family handout / PA)

A school has been fined £16,700 after a nine-year-old boy died when a changing room locker fell on him.

The 180cm tall locker, weighing 188kg, fell on Leo Latifi when he was at an after-school swimming lesson at the sports centre of Great Baddow High School in Chelmsford, Essex, in May 2019.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it had not been fixed to the wall properly and toppled as Leo and a friend climbed on the front of the unit.

Great Baddow High School was fined £16,700 and ordered to pay costs of £12,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court.

The HSE said the lockers, which had doors missing, stood prominently in the changing area and "provided a climbing frame" to the children.

One child was able to jump free but Leo did not.

The HSE said the locker had not been secured to the wall, despite the unit having fixing brackets fitted as part of its structure.

The court heard how several scenarios could have caused the unit to move including an adult stepping onto the lowest edge of the unit to pull at a bag stuck in a top-tier locker or to clean the top of the unit, according to the HSE.

In a statement after sentencing, the Latifi family said that "nothing can bring back our precious Leo" and the court case had been another very difficult time when they had to relive what happened on the "terrible day he died".

They said: "Families must be sure that their children will be kept safe when they are at school, in the care of other adults and organisations.

"We can only hope that no-one else has to suffer what we have endured these past two years since our Leo lost his life, and if the prosecution makes other schools more alert to their responsibilities in looking after equipment that could put children at risk, then that is all we can ask for right now."

The HSE said the tragic incident had led to the "avoidable death of a young child" which is still deeply felt by his family and friends.

A four-day inquest last year concluded that Leo's death was an accident, and the jury found that it was "significantly contributed to by a lack of assessment of a clear and obvious risk due to a locker unit not being re-secured to a solid wall".

It said that this was the case for some six years, since the locker unit was moved when new flooring was installed in 2013-14.

HSE inspector Saffron Turnell said: "This incident could easily have been prevented had the school simply ensured the locker unit had been securely fixed to the wall, however it had failed to identify the risk associated with the potential for the unit to topple over and to put in place appropriate monitoring arrangements to ensure that it stayed secure."

She urged all organisations to urgently check that any free-standing furniture is appropriately assessed and properly secured.

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