Care home company fined after pensioner dies

BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd has been fined £150,000 following a prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a pensioner died at a nursing home in Birmingham.
Seventy-four-year-old Brigid O’Callaghan, known as Vera, died after being strangled by a lap belt when she was left strapped in a wheelchair overnight.
Birmingham Crown Court heard today that staff at the company’s Amberley Court Nursing Home, on Edgbaston Road, Edgbaston, did not properly check on Mrs O’Callaghan on the night in question in a wheelchair in her room rather than helping her to bed.
She was discovered dead the next morning by a member of staff having slipped from the seat of the wheelchair to the floor, with the lap belt strap around her neck.
An HSE investigation into safety standards at the home following Mrs O’Callaghan’s death found more than 15 failings in her treatment.
The court heard that the home had failed to carry out a proper risk assessment and care plan for Mrs O’Callaghan’s stay, did not communicate her needs to staff, failed to ensure she could call for help and did not monitor whether night time checks were carried out.
HSE inspectors also identified more than ten further potential hazards that put residents at risk, ranging from a cluttered corridor to dirty conditions.
These included the absence of window restraints; excessive water temperature in two bathrooms; failure to secure a laundry room; tripping hazards and charging a battery in a corridor; storing lifting slings over a handrail; inappropriate treatment of waste items and laundry; dirty conditions of a shower and toilet; inappropriate storage of items in bathrooms; failure to secure a housekeeping room; a cluttered corridor; insufficient resources for an adequate maintenance programme; insufficient monitoring of the management of the home and lack of staff training.
BUPA Care Homes (BNH) Ltd, of Bridge House, Outwood Lane, Horsforth, Leeds, pleaded guilty to two breaches of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The first charge focused on the issues most closely connected to Mrs O’Callaghan’s death and the second on the potential hazards for the other residents. The company was fined £150,000 in total and ordered to pay £150,000 in costs.
An HSE Inspector said:
“Mrs O’Callaghan’s death was a preventable tragedy caused by a shocking case of mismanagement. The managers of this, and indeed all care homes, have a duty of care for their residents. At the very least they should be making sure that residents are comfortable and safe at night, not left in a wheelchair.
“There were some awful conditions for the elderly residents to live in and hazards that could easily have caused them serious injury.
“The home’s managers were not given appropriate monitoring or supervision and as a result the staff were not being properly trained or monitored.
“Working in a care home is a specialised job and it’s vital that all employees have the correct training in place, which in this instance, they did not.”

Karaoke bar posed serious fire risk

The owners of a new karaoke bar in Manchester have been prosecuted after being found to have risked the lives of workers and the public through ignoring a string of fire safety procedures during construction.
An investigation by the HSE at the site of the K2 nightclub in Manchester found large quantities of cardboard and other packaging discarded throughout the site. Middleton-based Chi Yip Group Ltd, which has an annual turnover of £35 million, and site manager Marc Royle appeared at Trafford Magistrates’ Court to admit breaching three health and safety regulations each.
When HSE inspectors visited the K2 site they found potentially flammable materials piled high to the ceiling in the basement, escape routes were not marked and in some cases were blocked entirely. The court heard the HSE inspectors were shocked at the scene that confronted them and, had a fire been ignited at the site, the risk to life would have been extremely serious.
The building’s fire alarm had been switched off and the fire extinguishers found on site had not been tested for seven years. HSE immediately issued two prohibition notices closing the site down until significant improvements were made. It took a total of 14 large skips and several people more than two days, working through the night, to clear the waste materials.
The investigating inspector at HSE, said: “We were called in after receiving a complaint about the safety standards on site and were shocked by what we found. The basement and corridors were blocked with waste materials so it would have been extremely difficult to escape in a fire.
“There was a Chinese restaurant open to the public on the first floor and the neighbouring buildings were also occupied. Just one spark could have set light to any of the piles of cardboard, and then dozens of lives would have been put in danger.
“Chi Yip Group and Marc Royle both seemed to be ignorant of the health and safety laws that applied to them, despite having years of experience dealing with construction projects.”
Chi Yip Group Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 14(1), 16(a) and 21(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 and was fined £6,000 with costs of £3,313.
Marc Royle pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 38(a), 39(1) and 41(1) and was fined £450 with costs of £2,710.

Shropshire health trust fined over patient death

An 89-year-old man died after hospital staff left him with only one rail on his bed to prevent him from falling out.
Pensioner Francis Steele, of Lower Netchwood, Dilton Priors, near Bridgnorth, died two weeks after falling from his bed at Telford’s Princess Royal Hospital.
Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust was today fined £50,000 after admitting to health and safety breaches which led to the incident.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the Trust after an investigation found the hospital had failed to provide Mr Steele with a bed rail that would have prevented the fall.
Shrewsbury Crown Court heard how a senior nurse decided that Mr Steele, described as very frail, needed bed rails but staff could only find one. Nobody made any further attempts to find another rail and the following day the elderly man was fatally injured when he fell from the open side of the bed.
The court was told that hospital staff did not know where to find the rails as there was no system of storage and heard evidence that staff did not look for another rail later in the shift.
Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust, of Mytton Oak Road, Shrewsbury, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. In addition to the fine it was ordered to pay £8,476 costs.
An HSE investigating inspector said:
“Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust’s failure to provide a bed rail for a frail, vulnerable patient who urgently needed it is unacceptable.
“The failure was compounded by chronic staff shortages. Just a few weeks before this incident, one nurse was so concerned by staffing levels in the ward she had written to the trust board, but no action was taken.
“The trust’s own policy was not to trigger any action on staff shortages until the levels became ‘high risk’. As a result, the trust was typically working at high risk or very high risk.
“It is a tragedy for Mr Steele and his family that Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital NHS Trust failed in its duty of care towards him.”

Fast-food giant Mc Donalds fined following serious safety lapse

A worker at a McDonalds restaurant suffered serious burns to his eyes when sulphuric acid sprayed into his face as he attempted to unblock a drain.

South Western Magistrates’ Court heard that the incident took place at a McDonalds outlet in Wandsworth, Greater London. When staff noticed that a washing machine was not working and identified that a pipe behind the machine, which led to a drain, was blocked. In order to remove the blockage, the restaurant bought a corrosive sulphuric acid-based product and poured it into the pipe.

The acid was left to work over the weekend, but when a member of staff checked the pipe three days later, the blockage had still not cleared up. Managers at the store decided to buy more of the product to complete the job. However, when one of the workers poured more of the chemical down the waste pipe, it blew back into his face and into his eyes. He sustained burns and has been left with only 55 to 60-per-cent vision in his left eye, and experienced a 97-per-cent recovery in his right eye. It’s thought that his sight is unlikely to improve any further.

“No risk assessment was carried out to ensure this product was safe to use, he was not properly supervised while using it; he was not given any training to reduce the risk of an accident, nor was he provided with protective clothing.

“This was a serious lapse in the company’s internal procedures. Using a hazardous chemical to clean a drain would involve obvious safety risks.

“In this case, the company failed in its duty of care to this member of staff. As a result, he has been left with a permanent and debilitating eye injury.”

McDonalds Restaurants Ltd appeared in court on 11 November and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £5000 and ordered to pay £15,744 in costs.

In mitigation, the company said it had no previous convictions and deeply regretted the incident. A spokesperson from McDonalds said: “We are very sorry for the eye injury incurred by our staff member.  We regret that on this occasion our stringent safety procedures were not followed and inappropriate, non-approved cleaning materials were used.

“As part of our ongoing continuous improvement programme, we have since reiterated to all our restaurants the dangers of using non-approved cleaning materials, introduced a specific personalised risk assessment for maintenance employees and retraining of the local restaurant team.”

Hotel evacuated after sauna blaze

Around 35 firefighters were called to the Quality Hotel at 11am on Monday, following an emergency evacuation. A total of four jets and an aerial ladder platform were used to try and prevent the fire from spreading. It was mostly out by 1.30pm.
Somebody had left a towel adjacent to hot coals inside the sauna room, and it was this that led to the blaze.The front of the hotel sustained ‘significant damage’, including the reception area, health spa and function room.
No one was seriously hurt in the incident, but one person suffered minor injuries.
District manager John Allison at the fire service, said: “I would like to praise our firefighters for their hard work and professionalism in tackling the fire.
“It is due to this that we were able to stop the fire from spreading to the other parts of the hotel where the sleeping accommodation is.”