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Case studies

A small but potentially significant win for Risk-Benefit Assessment

October 2016

On the 21st of March 2014 a child suffered an injury to her fingers as a result of trapping them in a door at an open access play service run by Hackney Play Association.

Hackney Play Association contested the claim for injury to fingers (trapped in door) on the basis of Risk-Benefit Assessment (RBA) and the case has been closed as the claimant has withdrawn their claim.

During the legal correspondence a number of issues were raised, in which we had to argue our case based on RBA. These included:

Whether our staff should have allowed the children to play a game that the children had made up themselves, which the children called ‘Scare Chase’.
Whether our staff ratio and supervision of the children was adequate.
We argued that the answers to both of these questions was ‘yes’ based on Risk-Benefit Assessment, playwork training and the Playwork Principles.

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When we provided the copy of Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation guide, and explained that this was the national guidance for play providers endorsed by a wide range of key stakeholders, including the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), this proved pivotal in persuading our insurers (Zurich) to contest the claim (and not to settle out of court).

We were also able to evidence that our policies, procedures and staff training were based on Risk-Benefit Assessment. Another key document was our Health & Safety Policy that sets out the importance of children being able to take risks in their play and states explicitly that we use RBA.

The claimant’s lawyers asked for a written risk assessment specifically for the game ‘Scare Chase’. We argued that this was not necessary because this was a game that the children made up in the course of play. We argued that staff are trained in dynamic risk-benefit assessment and are able to use their judgment to manage risks that emerge during the course of play. This was backed up in our Health & Safety Policy, our site risk assessment, our staff training records and lesson plans.

We explained to our insurers that our staff ratio met Ofsted standards for open access play provision and that our staff are qualified in first aid (and had applied first aid and called an ambulance when the accident occurred).

Following this the third party withdrew their claim and the insurers closed the file having paid NIL.

Nicola Butler, Hackney Play Association



Tim Gill (co-author of the RBA) comment on Hackney win 

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A small but potentially significant win for risk benefit assessment

Posted on August 18, 2016

How often do you hear that the ‘health and safety culture’ cannot be resisted? That fear of litigation makes people unwilling to accept the slightest possibility of accidents or injuries? The implication is that risk benefit assessment (RBA) – the balanced approach to risk management that I and others have developed – is a waste of time.

My response – that RBA is making a difference, and that the legal benchmark is to be reasonable, not to eliminate all risk – is sometimes met with scepticism or cynicism. “That may be true in theory,” the argument goes. “But in practice, as soon as a child is hurt and a claim comes in, the lawyers and the insurers just pay out, no matter what the merits of the case.”

This is why I am pleased to share the news that the charity Hackney Play Association has successfully fought off a claim after a playground accident, and that RBA was crucial to the outcome. The details were released yesterday on the Play Safety Forum (PSF) website