A school has been fined £20,000, and is now likely to face personal injury compensation claims against them following a horrific accident to a young girl in an art class.
The girl, who was not named at the hearing, lost all but two of her fingers when her class tried to make plaster of paris sculptures of their hands.
The teacher of the class told pupils to work clay around their fingers and use these moulds to set in the plaster of paris. However, the girl put her hands straight into the plaster of paris and let it set on them. The subsequent chemical reaction caused terrible burns, as she couldn’t remove her hands from the setting mixture.
Pupils, staff and paramedics tried desperately to remove the plaster from the girl’s hands. One even tried to use a hammer to knock chunks of the quick-setting material off but had no luck. It wasn’t until she was taken to hospital that the girl’s badly damaged hands were finally freed from the substance using power tools.
Despite undergoing 12 operations, she was left with no fingers on one hand, and just two on the other.
The school was fined the large amount as they failed to inform the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for six weeks about the incident. It was left to the doctors who treated the girl to finally tell them.
A school governor said: “There was no way the student could or should have known of the catastrophic consequences. The class had failed to observe guidelines on plaster of paris, which state clearly that it should only be handled using goggles and gloves.”
The breach of health and safety mean that the girl should be free to follow up the case with a personal injury compensation claim against the school for negligence.