On January 31, 2007 during a regular A-Level Art and Design Class, a 16-year-old girl decided to make a cast of her own hands using plaster of Paris. She sought advice from her teacher as to how to do this.
Unaware of the chemical reaction causing extreme heat which occurs when plaster of Paris is mixed with water, the student placed her hands directly in the substance in order to make the cast. It fast began to set and she realised her hands were stuck.
The chemical reaction between the substance and the girl’s hands meant that her fingers were so severely burned that they required amputation. She spent a length of time in hospital and made subsequent repeated follow up visits.
A risk assessment, required by law, for the handling of hazardous substances had not been carried out, the class pupils had not been told by their teacher of the potential dangers of plaster of Paris and the pupils had not been instructed to wear gloves or other protective equipment when handling the substance.
In addition, the school’s governing body did not report the incident. The HSE was told by the plastic surgeon who treated the burns.
It is important to note that the school’s governing body was deemed responsible and not the local authority because the school has foundation status and is therefore not governed by the local authority.
The pupil's left hand following the incident
The pupil's right hand following the incident
The pupil's hands following the incident