THE death of a three-year-old girl at York College nursery would have been prevented if there had been a fence and lockable gate round the slide where she died, a health and safety expert has said.

Professor David Ball told Leeds Crown Court it would also have been prevented if ropes had been put away after use, in accordance with the nursery’s health and safety procedures.

But even if the ropes were not put away and there had not been a fence, the children could still have been protected.

“Supervision at all times is fundamental,” he said. Later he said: “If children are supervised at all times, they are not going to come to harm.”

A fence would have detracted from the general “atmosphere” of the nursery’s outdoor play area, which was in line with modern play area design aims of stimulating children’s development in a natural environment, he said.

The professor of risk management at Middlesex University was giving evidence on behalf of the college, which denies failure to protect the health and safety of children at the nursery between August 1 and September 17, 2012. He was the college’s only witness.

Nursery staff member Sophee Redhead, 25, of Wenham Road, Foxwood, denies the manslaughter of Lydia Bishop by gross negligence.

The child died when her neck was caught in a rope when she was allegedly playing unsupervised on the slide on September 17, 2012.

Prof Ball said he had twice been to the nursery. “In my opinion, York College nursery provided a lovely playground for children,” he said, adding it was more interesting than the traditional type of playground.

He saw no problems with its L-shaped layout as one member of staff could see the whole of it if they were in the right place, he said.

The jury has heard evidence children were not allowed to go unsupervised to the slide because it could not be seen from all of the playground, but that they did so frequently and that staff knew that they did.

Prof Ball said he did not know whether the college’s health and safety manager, David Jackson, had inspected the nursery playground as part of an audit of the college’s health and safety procedures.

He also said he did not know how the nursery manager Liz Radford had carried out her health or safety responsibilities including playground inspections or if the nursery staff had divided the duties among themselves.

He agreed with the prosecution’s suggestion that if staff evidence that they were unaware of health and safety risk assessments was correct, that would be a management failure.

The trial continues.