York College Nursery: accidents on slide before nursery tragedy

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Children had been involved in two accidents with a rope on a slide at York College Nursery just weeks before Lydia Bishop was fatally injured, a jury has heard.

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Three-year-old Lydia Bishop died in September 2012

Nursery nurse Lyndsay Harrison told the court she was so concerned about two incidents on the same day in July 2012 at York College Nursery, that she took two ropes off the slide and put them away out of children’s reach.

She went on to tell the jury at Leeds Crown Court that when she returned to work after a summer break on 17 September 2012, the day the incident took place, she saw a similar rope attached to the slide.

CCTV footage has been shown of children allegedly playing unsupervised on two occasions on the slide on the day Lydia Bishop caught her neck in a rope and was strangled. The footage shows a rope lying on the mound topped by the slide.

The jury heard that the nursery had health and safety rules that children should always be supervised when playing on the slide or with ropes and that ropes should be tidied away after use.

Police removed a 16-metre rope from the slide after Lydia Bishop’s death. The court heard that the member of staff at the nursery responsible for initially drawing up health and safety risk assessments, who had worked at the setting for 21 years, was ‘astounded’ to learn there was a rope of that length in the setting.

Room supervisor Jill Corrigan had a ‘basic’ health and safety certificate gained at the college after completing a two-day course in risk assessment. She had held a health and safety role at the nursery for five years.

She said that she ‘took comfort’ when drawing up risk assessments that they were sent to her manager and the college’s health and safety advisor.

She went on to agree with defence suggestions that her manager, not her, was responsible for ensuring health and safety control measures were implemented and checking that they were carried out.

Earlier in the trial, Ms Corrigan's manager claimed that all three room supervisors were her ‘eyes and ears’ regarding health and safety. Ms Corrigan said she was surprised to hear that her role in the nursery included this.

David Yearley, head of play safety for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, who was called as a prosecution expert, said he rated the risk of harm from the rope higher than that given in the college’s risk assessment.

He said that the control measures laid out in the assessment would have protected the children against the risk if they had been carried out in full.

Mr Yearley added that if either the children had been supervised at all times or the rope put away when not being used under supervision, that would also have protected the children.

Nursery worker Sophee Redhead has been accused of manslaughter by gross negligence and failing to take ‘reasonable care’ of Lydia Bishop under health and safety legislation, which she denies.

The case against Sophee Redhead is that she saw the child walk towards the slide, but took no action.

York College denies failing to ensure people not in their employment are not exposed to a risk to their health and safety.