South Shields council worker suspended in ‘whistleblower’ row

Haven Point

Haven Point

A lifeguard was suspended after he blew the whistle when his assessor signed his signature on his exam without him knowing and the details were leaked.

Haven Point lifeguard Ron Hodgson underwent a regular assessment which must be carried out under Royal Lifesaving Society rules over pool safety.

Haven Point

Haven Point

He was supposed to sign off the form before it was submitted by assessor Linda Woodhouse.

But when he asked her about his form he was told she had signed it on his behalf.

He informed bosses and an assessor was disciplined - but continues to work at the centre.

The details of the probe where leaked to the Gazette over concerns for safety - but when we made inquiries to South Tyneside Council which runs the centre, Mr Hodgson was suspended.

How can a manager forge someone else’s signature without their knowledge and there be no repercussions.

Source

Documents leaked to the Gazette show that a probe was carried out which revealed that Miss Woodhouse did wrongly sign off the document.

It stated that Miss Woodhouse admitted signing the assessment form because she was “under pressure” to send the form off because she was “going on annual leave”.

It went on to say it was “not” and “accepted practice”.

The awarding body for pool qualifications and the council insist however that at the time of the probe in August last year, Mr Hodgson was still fully qualified to work as a pool lifeguard despite the blunder and no-one was ever at risk.

The leaked document did however state that “appropriate action” would be taken in dealing with the matter - but the council will not reveal what disciplinary action was taken against Miss Woodhouse - who remains an employee at Haven Point.

The Gazette contacted Mr Hodgson who remains suspended after the incident was leaked - but he declined to comment on the matter

A source said: “They think it is a secret but the reality is, it’s the talk of the centre. There are more people who know about what has gone on then they think.

“How can a manager forge someone else’s signature without their knowledge and there be no repercussions.

“This is an official document for someone who is in a position where people’s health and safety is of paramount importance.

“Now the person who raised it as a concern has been suspended because, they say, he made the matter public.”

An investigation into the incident is now being carried out by IQL UK, the qualification awarding body for pool lifeguard.

Martin Symcox, Director of IQL UK, said: “We have been made aware that a candidate had been independently assessed for the National Pool Lifeguard Qualification by a Pool Lifeguard Trainer Assessor and an assessment form was signed incorrectly.

“We believe that this incident did not impact the assessment of the qualification and are confident that the skills that were assessed meet the standards of the qualification.

“We take allegation of falsifying our qualifications very seriously and will be fully investigating these claims with the leisure centre and leisure provider.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “This matter occurred over a year ago in August 2015. At the time the individual in question had recently successfully completed the necessary training and was qualified to work on poolside as a Life Guard.

“The document in question reflected this, and the matter was concluded some months ago.

In relation to the suspension over the alleged leaking of information the council spokesman added: “It would be inappropriate to comment on individual cases, however, the council recognises the duty of care it has to its employees and service users and, where necessary, the neutral step of suspending an employee is taken to enable a full and impartial investigation to be carried out.”

The spokesman also told The Gazette that Ms Woodhouse did not wish to comment on the matter.