Fifteen-year-old Ashley Talbot died after being hit by a school minibus on school grounds when he was trying to get to his bus home.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution concluded on 2 November 2018 with a £300,000 fine for Bridgend County Borough Council.
It is a case that highlights important issues that every school needs to take seriously.
Dangers at home time
Helen Turner, the HSE inspector working on this case, stresses that messages that were unheeded earlier need to be listened to now. In particular, HSE has urged schools to review traffic arrangements within their grounds, and where possible design layouts so that pupils and other pedestrians are separated from moving traffic.
New schools tend to be larger, with more traffic movements on site and under the school’s control.
“We found that the layby created before the school opened in September 2008 was never large enough to accommodate all school buses at hometime,” she says. “This had been identified by council officers, but the council made no plans to enlarge the layby. For three years before the collision, some school buses had been parking on the other side of the road, which had no pavement, leaving children to board in the middle of the road while other vehicles were able to travel in both directions between the waiting buses.”
In the days following the incident, HSE took action against Bridgend County Borough Council. Children were stopped from boarding school buses from the road and the council were required to modify the bus layby to make it big enough for all children to board their bus from the pavement.
This brought the council in-line with HSE’s guidance that transport safety at every workplace should start with the creation of a ‘safe site’, where vehicles are separated from people.
More change needed
HSE is now urging other schools and councils to take action to review their own arrangements and manage on-site safety as part of their transport plan, stressing that planning and parking should take into account ‘desire lines’. These are the routes most people will choose to take.
Helen Turner added: “Children may not be as risk aware as adults. Exactly how children are likely to behave when there is a race for the back seat needs to be taken into account, and transport risk must be properly managed and regularly reviewed.”
Another warning which needs to be heeded by schools is the importance of those with health and safety responsibilities to be sufficiently competent and supported, with clear ways to report and discuss issues.
Though there had been previous near misses at Maesteg, there was no system for these to be reported and discussed. Learning from experience and adapting health and safety plans accordingly is crucial to making sure that they remain effective.
Ultimately, HSE’s main message to schools is that much greater care must be given to transport management within school grounds. The principles of ‘plan, do, check, act’ within health and safety management can help schools to protect the children in their care from avoidable harm, and ensure that the lessons from this tragic incident are learned.
Rhian McLaughlin is a spokesperson for the Health and Safety Executive