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Health and Safety Executive fines care home after death of a resident

The clinical negligence team at Hodge Jones & Allen frequently receives enquiries from relatives of elderly persons, concerned that their loved ones have suffered harm whilst resident in care homes and seeking advice on appropriate legal remedies.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has recently (30 August 2017) imposed a £60,000 fine on a care home found to lack adequate health and safety arrangements to ensure safe hoisting of elderly residents after a resident died from injuries sustained following a fall from a hoist.

Whilst it is unusual for the HSE to be involved in such a case it shows that statutory Health and Safety legislation can be used to good effect in enforcing safe practices at work, either as an adjunct or alternative to civil litigation.

HSE press release:

Chilton Care Homes Limited has today been fined following the death of an 89-year old resident at its home in Sudbury, Suffolk.

Ipswich Crown Court heard how, on 14 November 2013, the elderly resident was being moved by two care workers with the aid of a hoist from her bed to a chair when she slipped through the sling and fell to the floor. She suffered a break to her right femur and fractured ribs but due to poor health could only be treated with palliative care until she died on 23 November 2013.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Chilton Care Homes Limited did not have adequate health and safety arrangements in place to ensure users could be hoisted safely.

There was no manual handling policy setting out the arrangements for moving residents safely. Individual moving and handling risk assessments, and lifting plans, were inadequate because they failed to provide specific information about the equipment to be used. This resulted in some residents being hoisted with the wrong type or size of sling. Nurses and care workers had not received suitable training and several slings were found to be unsafe to use. They had not been inspected prior to use and had not been thoroughly examined in the previous six months. HSE also found disposable slings were being washed and then reused.

Chilton Care Homes Limited of Newton Road, Sudbury, Suffolk pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Regulation 8 (1) of the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998. The company has been fined £60,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,268.52.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Saffron Turnell said: “The company failed to put in place robust arrangements to ensure that residents could be hoisted safely.

“Care providers must ensure that each resident has an individual lifting plan that records the size and type of sling to be used for each type of transfer and how it should be attached to the hoist. The plans should be communicated to nurses and care workers who have received appropriate training to carry out the activities safely. Detailed guidance can be found on HSE’s website which care providers should review to ensure that they are complying with their legal health and safety responsibilities.”