So, Clyne Farm has finally been judged to be culpable in injuring a client... At Last! But don't think this post is a rubbing of my hands, it isn't. This post is about asking a very serious question... Why did the UK's government agencies, Tourism Swansea Bay and BAHA (Now BAPA), The British Activity Providers Association, not protect members of the public from a known danger? And first off, I hope Robert Wilson gets to read this and I hope that he takes action against the HSE, Swansea City Council and BAHA for their failures. And it's their failiures in the main that this blog will detail.
So, in short, the owner of Clyne Farm, Mr Geoff Haden, has been found guilty and fined £170,000 for the broken back of a client who was taking part in Challenge Valley, a muddy assault course.
In 2005 I was approached by Mr Haden and asked to act as a sub-contracted provider, taking responsibility for his adventure activity provision including all on site activities. This included the running of Challenge Valley. Despite this being for me a lucrative contract I seperated my business interests from Mr Hadens in late June 2005, claiming dangerous interference by both Geoff and his wife, a lack of investment in the facilities on the farm, his wife screaming at clients and lastly but by no means the least, Mr Hadens refusal to abide by the law and to report hospitalisations of clients as detailed in the RIDDOR regulations.
Here is a good example of the problems that I was confronted with on the farm site - Clyne Farm Krab and the first part of this post details most of the operational issues and informing BAHA of the problems... This post, Here We Go Again, details the ongoing relationships and poor practices that those in positions of authority and power in tourism in Wales seem almost always to operate with.
I remember having a meeting with Mr Haden. A, to me, shocking meeting. I had written to Mr Haden asking him to refrain from using my staff to run activities on the farm site that they were not trained or qualified to. At this meeting he tore up the printed correspondence in front of me and said that the contents were rubbish. His comment when I mentioned that the Krab, as detailed above, had been the only Krab at the top of a climb on the farms climbing wall was 'well, that just shows you how inherently strong metal is'... Now, that coming from a structural engineer. You get the idea...
So Wales Outdoors and Clyne Farm parted company.
I then informed Swansea City Council, The Health and Safety Executive, The Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and BAHA (Clyne Farm was inspected and accredited by BAHA every couple of years or so) and made my feelings of 'discomfort' made felt to Tourism Swansea Bay.
I had a meeting with Swansea Bay's HSE department and an argument with BAHA, a long discussion with an AALA inspector... I passed over my complaints of staff issues, poor maintenance of fixtures, non reporting of hospitalisations... Not one of these agencies took any action...
I felt I did all that I could to protect members of the public from a rogue adventure activity provider. Whistling in the wind...
When Robert Wilsons accident occurred I was immediately informed. I dutifully informed the Adventure Activity Licensing Authority and asked them to investigate Mr Haden in a couple of weeks time, to see if he had submitted a RIDDOR form... They, part of the HSE, should have acted then and prosecuted for yet another failure to report... Nothing...
So, why didn't these bodies take any action? Why didn't those tasked with protecting the public act. There was a simple route and that would have been to contact the rescue services and Swansea A and E doctors at Morriston Hospital and to build an accurate record of the number of people hospitalised by the farm. Each hospitalisation is reportable but Mr Haden refuses to report incidents hence his statement in court that there had been no similar injury. Well I know of some... that it would appear others have not sued over, so the odd broken wrist or two, the suspected spinal injury air lifted and found to be, after hospital treatment, just a bad but not too serious fall...
Staff used to joke about the size of the filing cabinet that contained the accident reports, as Mr Haden does keep a meticulous record of all accidents - I am assuming to cover himself in the instance of a claim... Well, it's no joking matter now.
I sincerely hope that this post receives wide coverage and that those injured on site take out a class action against not only Clyne Farm but also the HSE and BAHA. For it is not Mr Haden who is responsible here, he was just doing the same old same old... it is the authorities that knew he was/is? operating outside of the law and did nothing about it.
A POT-BELLIED scout leader who broke his back sliding down a fireman's pole in front of his troop has been awarded almost £170,000 compensation by a High Court judge.
Robert Wilson, 49, fractured a vertebrae when he "landed on his bottom" after careering down the ten-foot pole, which was part of Clyne Farm Centre's Challenge Valley assault course, in Mayals, near Swansea, in August, 2009.
He was helicoptered to hospital after coming to grief on the "Burma Bridge" obstacle and, despite major surgery, his work as a taxi driver and as a carer for his seriously disabled wife was said to have been seriously curbed by his injury.
Mr Wilson, of New Road, Whitehill, near Bordon, Hampshire — who described himself as a "fat taxi driver", unfit and weighing in at 13-and-a-half stone — said he had been worried about the pole descent but relied on a "highly confident" instructor who reassured him he would be fine.
She found that the 24-year-old instructor had failed to demonstrate how to safely descend the pole in the wet conditions or to instruct Mr Wilson in the correct technique before he "hit the deck" and immediately experienced agony.
Mr Wilson earlier said of the instructor: "She said, 'Just go out and give the pole a big hug, hug it tight.'
"I then said that I wasn't very fit, that I was a fat taxi driver at 13-and-a-half stone, and are you sure about this? She said to just give it a big hug."
Describing Mr Wilson as a "thoroughly genuine and honest individual" who had done his best to give an accurate account of events leading up to the accident, the judge said of the instructor, by contrast, "I did not find her an impressive witness".
Geoff Haden, trading as Clyne Farm Centre, was ordered to pay Mr Wilson £167,514 damages, including £25,000 for his "pain, suffering and loss of amenity" and other sums for his lost earnings and the extra assistance he will need due to his permanent injury.
The judge said she had no doubt that Mr Wilson "is a genuine, hard-working man" who had devoted himself to the care of his wife, who was confined to a wheelchair by a childhood condition, and their four-year-old son.
Lawyers for Mr Haden, a chartered structural engineer, had told the court that he devised the assault course with the help of an Army instructor and that, since it opened more than 20 years ago, it had been used by 300,000 people, half of them children, without any similar accidents.