Toddler burned by Caustic Soda at leisure centre

A leisure centre operator has been fined £45,000 after a two-and-half-year-old boy suffered severe burns in a swimming pool changing area.

The boy’s father was walking him to the pool after getting him ready for his weekly swimming lesson at the Great Dunmow Leisure Centre in Essex in February last year when the toddler slipped and fell onto a recently cleaned drain cover.

Staff at the centre had cleaned the drain with a substance containing highly corrosive sodium hydroxide (also known as caustic soda or lye), which was designed to dissolve grease and hair.

The chemical burned through the toddler’s swimming shorts and swim nappy and left him with third degree, full skin thickness alkaline burns. He had to stay in hospital for 10 days.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard last week (5 December) that Leisure Connection, which ran the centre, did not have a robust system of work for cleaning the drain.

This system should have identified responsibilities and included clear instructions on how to clean the drains safely.

The company also failed to assess its use of chemicals properly or to provide staff with adequate training in their use.

HSE inspectors told the court that the leisure centre management team had admitted it had not even realised the chemical was at the site.

As well as the fine, Leisure Connection was ordered to pay costs of £20,746 after it pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Shires Law Partner, Joanne du Plessis, comments: Clearly this is a  case where had there been adequate training in place the accident would have been prevented.