Sport Aberdeen fined £8000 over unsafe flume

The Beach Leisure Centre, where the incident took place. Picture: Complimentary/CC
The Beach Leisure Centre, where the incident took place. Picture: Complimentary/CC
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CHARITABLE trust Sport Aberdeen was today fined £8000 after admitting safety failings that led to a young boy suffering serious leg injuries when he went down a flume ride that did not have enough water.

Aberdeen Sheriff Court was told that the 12-year-old from Forfar had been the first rider of the session on the Wipeout waterslide at the city’s Beach Leisure Centre on 11 August 2011. But issues with switching on the water supply meant there was insufficient water in the trough at the bottom of the slide to slow him down.

The boy slid down the flume and collided with the end of the trough, fracturing his right ankle and shinbone. His leg was in plaster for almost seven weeks and he had to wear a “moon boot” for another fortnight.

The charitable trust manages sports and leisure facilities and services in the city on behalf of Aberdeen City Council.

The prosecution followed an investigation by the Government’s Health and Safety Executive.

An HSE spokesman said: “An investigation by the HSE found that the trust’s most significant failure was not controlling risks fully and it had failed to provide a safe system of work. As a result it did not ensure an adequate level of water had accumulated in the collection trough to slow and bring to rest any users of the waterslide.

“The Wipeout flume had the steepest descent and was the narrowest of three flume tube slides at the centre. Known as a speed slide, riders slide straight down a steep slope which launches the rider into an exit flume and then into the ‘collection trough’ – a long canal of water that should slow the rider down gradually.”

He continued: “On the day of the incident, the pool plant operator was later than normal starting up the three flumes as she was dealing with other matters. On the Wipeout flume, it appeared the two valves had been left open from the day before and the pumps switched off at an electrical panel, so the operator did not realise she had actually closed the water flow valve rather than open it as she intended.

“She then went to deal with other issues but soon afterwards got a call from the lifeguard stationed at the bottom of the waterslides to say no water had come through the Wipeout slide. The operator went to investigate, discovered the valve was closed and then opened the valve.

“As the water had now begun to flow at the top, the lifeguards above were unaware of the problem at the bottom and allowed the boy, their first customer, to ride down the flume.”

Sport Aberdeen, of Albyn Place, Aberdeen, was fined £8,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

John Radcliffe, an HSE Inspector, said after the hearing: “HSE fully supports and encourages the use of leisure and sporting facilities in the local community. Whilst riding on any water slide is not risk free, as the body can be turned around or over at high speed by the water flow as part of the thrill of the ride, this type of incident fell well outside the acceptable risk that customers accept by using such equipment.”

He added: “The injury sustained by the child, whilst serious enough, could have been much worse as an impact like that runs the risk of serious spinal injuries. The public rightly expect to be able to visit such facilities without being exposed to such a serious risk of injury.

“The incident was entirely foreseeable and preventable had proper, competent control been exercised by Sport Aberdeen.”