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Finger-trapping Accidents in Schools

There have been a number of accidents in schools where pupils have had their fingers trapped in doors. Corporate Health and Safety requires schools to assess the risks of such finger traps and if the risk is significant to take appropriate action such as installing proprietary protective strips to the hinge edge of doors.

This article indicates where finger guard devices are required. It also provides more detailed guidance on assessing the risks and the control of finger trapping risks.

Summary of Action Required

Headteachers should ensure on completion of a risk assessment that finger guards are fitted to classroom doors; entrances to toilets and toilet cubicle doors (unless the trapping hazard has been eliminated by the design).

Assessments should also be made of the risks of entrapment from other doors with reference to the guidance.

This will mainly relate to nursery schools, primary schools and special schools. However, secondary schools and Post 16 establishments should assess the risks in areas where young children may occasionally be present (e.g. reception areas).

Risk Assessment – Required and Recommended Actions

Analysis of previous accidents shows that while all doors in schools are potentially a risk, classroom doors, toilet entrance doors and toilet cubicle doors represent the highest risk of finger-trapping accidents.

Past injuries have included severed fingers as well as fractured crushed or bruised fingers or fingertips. Due to the severity of these injuries, the upset to the child and family, the inherent cost and time in dealing with the incident and sadly the potential risk of insurance claims and the availability and relatively low cost of finger guards, it is suggested that guards are fitted in the first instance to classroom doors, entrances to toilets and toilet cubicle doors used by nursery or Key Stage 1 pupils (unless the trapping hazard has been eliminated by the design).

In addition an assessment should be made of the risk of entrapment from other doors. Particular attention should be paid to the following:

• Doors next to areas where pupils congregate;
• Doors which pupils queue beside for lunch or other reasons;
• Doors near entrances;
• Doors which are susceptible to strong winds;
• Doors which have created problems in the past (check accident records)
• Heavy doors (with or without dampening mechanisms);
• Areas where pupils are unsupervised.

If schools have such doors, the following measures should be considered:

• Try to reduce or remove the need for pupils to gather near the doors – is there a notice board or some other attraction adjacent to the door?
• Can pupils queue in a different area or can any doors nearby be locked?
• Give regular briefings to pupils on dangers of finger trapping – schools which have never experienced finger-trapping accidents tend to be those where pupils behaviour is shaped at an early stage and consistently reinforced.

Where the above is not practicable, finger-guards should be considered. Schools should record their risk assessment of finger trapping. This could be in general risk assessment format but it is recommended that a separate finger trapping risk assessment is recorded.

New/Refurbished Classrooms and Toilets

In all new classrooms or major classroom refurbishments, toilet entrance doors and toilet cubicle doors in primary phase schools should normally have the risk of finger trapping designed out at the planning stage. Where this is not possible they must be fitted with finger guarding devices.
Schools must instruct their chosen contractor to include these standards in the brief for the project.

Product Information

A number of finger guards are available in the UK. It is advisable to ensure that the device chosen is guaranteed for a length of time (10 years is the longest guarantee available) and that the fixing method does not rely on sticky tape only but has a manual fixing method.

Checks after Installation

For both new and existing devices in schools there should be a system of regular brief visual inspection to check for damage or deterioration as the means of fixing so that appropriate remedial action can be taken. In addition, staff should be encouraged to be vigilant for and report damaged devices. Furthermore, there are good reasons why pupils and young people should be informed about the trapping hazards which doors pose the purpose of the devices and the need to tell staff about any damage they spot.

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