Firms in court over care home death

09 October 2014

Safety failings by a care home and construction firm have been found to be the result of an accident that lead to an elderly resident’s death within a care home.

The care home was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £7,500 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

The construction firm was fined £10,000 with costs of £7,500 after pleading guilty to the same offence.

The construction firm had been instructed by the care home to complete renovation works on the ground floor of the premises to convert a bedroom into toilets and storage space. Five days into the schedule, a 92 year old resident, wandered into the work area where a heavy fire door fell on her. The fire door had been temporarily removed from the en-suite bathroom and leaned against a wall.

The investigation by the HSE found that the resident, who suffered from dementia, historically wandered into this room as it used to be occupied by a friend of hers. Staff on duty at the time of the accident heard a cry for help and attended the scene, where it took three people to lift the door off the resident. It was reported that other hazards in the area included exposed wiring, loose skirting boards, rusty nails and broken glass.

The resident suffered a broken hip and spent eight days in hospital. After returning to the care home her condition deteriorated and she died just under four weeks later as a result of her injuries.

The HSE investigation found the care home and building company had both failed to make sure the room was locked at the end of each day and also when it was left unoccupied.

Speaking after the hearing, an HSE Inspector said:

“Both firms clearly knew there were vulnerable residents living at the care home but they still allowed the door to what was essentially a building site to be left unlocked on numerous occasions.

Sadly, the resident was severely injured when she wandered into the room, presumably looking for her friend, and ultimately lost her life because of the failings of the two companies.

Following the incident, the companies introduced a new procedure which meant workers had to collect and return a key at the start and end of each day, and lock the door when there was no one inside.

If this system had been in place from the start of the building project then Mrs Sharples would never have been able to get into the room.”

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