Art class girl loses eight fingers after putting hands in plaster of Paris
By Andrew Gregory 13/10/2009
A pupil has lost eight fingers after putting her hands in plaster of Paris, suffering agonising burns in a horrific classroom blunder.
The 19-year-old’s terrifying ordeal began when the liquid quickly set around her skin, creating temperatures of up to 60C.
Frantic classmates and her teacher desperately tried to hack off the plaster with hammers. She was rushed to hospital with her hands wedged in the solidified block.
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Doctors used a pneumatic drill to free her, but the damage from the burns was so bad surgeons had to remove all her fingers on her left hand and three on the other. She spent three months in hospital and her body is covered in scars from where skin grafts were taken.
The horror happened after the youngster “misunderstood” instructions from her art teacher. She was meant to put her hands in nearby wet clay to make moulds.
And yesterday the school was fined £16,500 after it admitted breaching health and safety laws.
The girl’s solicitor Stephen Hill described the dreadful incident. He said: “Panic ensued, with the teacher and classmates trying to remove the plaster. When plaster of Paris sets it heats from the inside, generating temperatures of up to 60 degrees. Her hands were being burnt as it set around her.”
The girl’s nightmare happened as she was studying for a BTech in art at the Giles School in Old Leake, Lincs.
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But teachers failed to report it to the Health and Safety Executive, which found out only from her plastic surgeon. Prosecutor Jo Anderson told Boston magistrates a HSE probe later discovered no goggles or gloves were available.
Mr Hill revealed the youngster, who cannot be named, plans to sue education chiefs for £100,000.
She needed 12 operations. But incredibly, she returned to the school and gained three A levels.
Mr Hill said: “She is doing incredibly well considering.
“She has deferred a university place for a year to do voluntary work with young children. She is inspirational. I have never heard her complaining about her condition.
“Her next ambition is to learn to drive. She will need a lot of help.
“But she is determined to try to live a normal life and wants to do everything her friends are doing.”
After the hearing, Ms Anderson said: “Today we have heard the dreadful consequence of not carrying out proper risk assessments in the classroom.
“It is not acceptable that pupils are not informed of the risks involved in handling hazardous substances.”
Giles School admitted failing to notify the HSE of the accident and failing to ensure the health and safety of the teenager.
It said: “Our health and safety procedures have been rigorously revised. And we are confident that such an accident cannot occur again.”