A two-year-old claimant was using a swing at a park when the left hand side of the chain came off the top frame and he fell to the ground and was injured. The swings had been installed six weeks prior to the accident. This was during the school holidays and the park had been busy and the swing had had heavy use.
The defendant denied liability on the grounds that the screw had deliberately been loosened by vandals. They said they had a reasonable system of inspection and maintenance, including a visual inspection just four days prior to the accident where no defects were noted.
We argued that vandalism was unlikely as it would have required the individual to go to the trouble of obtaining a set of ladders and possessing the correct size of Allen key to loosen a screw eight feet above the ground.
Given the height of the defect that we said had caused the injury, visual inspections were not appropriate. One needed a ladder to get up and look at the screws.
We cited the British Standard BSEN1776-1: 1998 entitled “Playground Equipment” in arguing there had been breaches of the Occupiers’ Liability Act. These say that a screw connection should be safeguarded where playgrounds were subject to heavy use or vandalism and daily inspections could be necessary, particularly when equipment was being “run-in” from its new installation. That would involve tightening of screws and so on.
Another swing had had another defect in the weeks since the equipment had been installed so it was not inconceivable further problems might occur.
The Judge accepted all our arguments. He commented the Defendant had a heavy burden to ensure the equipment was installed properly and that all aspects of the installation were rechecked and where it was found possible that the screw could come loose, steps should be taken to prevent this by tightening the screw and applying a cap or something similar.
The Judge was satisfied the Defendant had not discharged their duty and the Claimant was awarded £1,000.
He considered but dismissed arguments about the danger of impeding desirable leisure activities, arising from the Compensation Act.
Stoke-on-Trent County Court, 2 February 2010.