On 18 January 2022, Bright Horizons Family Solutions Limited pled guilty to breaches of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £800,000 following the death of a toddler in their care. The incident took place at an Edinburgh nursery operated by the company, which has subsequently been closed down.
The childcare provider was accused of failing to suitably instruct and supervise employees to allow them to adequately control the risk of choking during mealtimes following an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive. The investigation noted numerous occasions between 21 May and 9 July 2019 when staff at the nursery were not properly supervising the children in their care while they ate and were instead engaging in other tasks. Staff turnover had been particularly high prior to the period investigated and a support team that had been put in place was withdrawn in May 2019.
The incident leading to this prosecution took place on 9 July 2019. The deceased was an eleven-month-old boy who had recently started attending the nursery. He had been eating lunch when a staff member sitting next to him left the room to go to the toilet, and upon her return thought that he was asleep. When it was realised that the child was not breathing, staff made attempts to dislodge the blockage by slapping him on the back and performing CPR. The toddler was later taken to hospital by ambulance but died the following day. When sentencing Bright Horizons, Sheriff Wendy Sheehan noted that the company had systems in place to supervise eating, but these were not followed. The Managing Director of Bright Horizons confirmed these policies have been reviewed since the incident.
A child care worker, who is said to have been the manager at Bright Horizons in Edinburgh is being individually prosecuted. On 26 January 2022 she pled not guilty, denying a charge of neglect relating to her capacity as the nursery manager and her alleged failure to monitor staff appropriately. Her trial is set down for May.
This tragic case again emphasises the need for staff to be properly trained in health and safety practices and policies. The design, implementation, and consistent application of these policies is paramount in preventing accidents, and requires vigilant surveillance when staff changes occur. This need is particularly acute for those providing care, and this prosecution follows another earlier this month where a care home resident choked to death on a piece of doughnut in circumstances where staff had not had sufficient training.
If you have any queries regarding this update, or general care sector health & safety questions, please contact Lynn Livesey.
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