The tragic death of Leo Latifi demonstrates the need for schools to carry out full and comprehensive assessments of all the risks associated with their operations and facilities.
On 23 May 2019, Leo was attending an after-school swimming lesson at the sports centre at Great Baddow High School. Leo and another child were waiting for the lesson to start when they climbed the front of a locker unit in the boy’s changing room, which was missing doors, creating the impression of a climbing frame. The locker unit toppled over and fell on top of Leo, fatally injuring him. During its investigation, the Health and Safety Executive found that the unit had not been secured to the wall despite it having appropriate brackets for this. The Health and Safety Executive found that the school failed to identify the potential risks of the locker unit toppling over and to put in place measures to avoid this and to ensure it remained secure. Great Baddow High School was fined £16,700 and ordered to pay costs of £12,000 after pleading guilty to breaching section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Whilst this incident occurred in a school, the risks of furniture toppling is relevant and likely to arise in many other settings (such as workplaces with lockers for employees and libraries with tall bookcases). The court heard in this case that the locker unit in question could have easily moved if an adult had stepped onto the lowest edge to get their belongings from the higher lockers.
With that in mind, all organisations should ensure that the risks associated with free-standing furniture are assessed, and suitable and sufficient measures are implemented to mitigate such risks, ensuring any such furniture is properly secured to avoid it toppling or collapsing.
“I therefore urge all organisations to urgently check that any free-standing furniture is appropriately assessed and properly secured, if they have not done so already.”