Outdoor education provider PGL Travel Limited has been ordered to pay a huge £1 million fine plus costs after two children sustained significant finger injuries at an organised residential stay at the company’s Adventure Centre near Hindhead.
The company pleaded guilty to offences under Section 33 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 at Guildford Magistrates’ Court in June, and was sentenced at Staines Magistrates’ Court on Monday when a fine of £1m, plus costs of £18,006 and a victim surcharge of £181, were imposed.
The offences related to accidents which took place on May 26, 2021, and October 21, 2021, both involving children attending school-organised residential stays at PGL Marchants Hill Adventure Centre near Hindhead.
The two children sustained significant injuries to their fingers following entrapment in door hinges at the centre’s accommodation blocks.
The court heard PGL, which describes itself as “the UK’s leading outdoor education provider”, had been monitoring similar incidents since 2009, and that 520 children across all its sites had sustained finger entrapment in door hinges, some resulting in significant injury and amputation.
Despite this, the business failed to voluntarily install finger guards to protect children staying at the Marchants Hill centre until officers from Waverley Borough Council’s environmental health (food and safety) team issued them with prohibition notices requiring them to do so.
Councillor Tony Fairclough, Waverley’s executive portfolio holder for enforcement and regulatory services, said: “The council takes breaches of health and safety legislation very seriously. This is a significant fine for a local authority prosecution and it is testament to the sterling work of our environmental health and legal teams.
“No parent expects to send their child on a school residential trip and for them to return injured. The children involved should have been enjoying their first independent holiday without parents but were badly wounded and traumatised by their injuries, which required hospitalisation and surgery.
“It is vitally important that businesses protect the health, safety and welfare of visitors to their business premises. They can do this by undertaking a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of work activities at their premises and implementing control measures in a timely fashion.”
PGL said in a statement: “We deeply regret the two finger injuries that occurred at our Marchants Hill centre in 2021 as well as the previous incidents between 2009 and 2019.
“During the sentencing, the judge acknowledged a change in culture initiated by a new CEO, including in respect of health and safety management where substantial investments have been made. A large number of initiatives were acknowledged by the court, including the installation of finger guards on all doors across all PGL centres. This resulted in a material reduction in the fine laid down.
“While we acknowledge these historical incidents, and unreservedly apologise for any injury or upset caused, they do not reflect the high standards in place at PGL today. Safety is one of our core values and at the forefront of everything we do. We are confident that today’s PGL provides a safe and caring environment for young people on outdoor educational visits.”