80-year-old care home resident dies after drinking toilet cleaner
An 80-year-old care home resident died after accidentally drinking toilet cleaner which had been left in his room.
Sheffield Magistrates Court heard how Derek Johnson had been living at the Newfield Care Home for just a month before his death in July 2009.
Mr Johnson, who was registered blind, frail and had symptoms of dementia, was able to drink the chemical, after it was left unattended for several hours in his room. He began vomiting blue liquid and was taken to Northern General Hospital, however he died a few hours later.
The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted Palms Row Healthcare Ltd, operators of the care home for failing to properly manage the use of cleaning liquids. An investigation found that the company had no procedures in place to prevent vulnerable people from accessing the dangerous chemicals. Furthermore, trolleys which carried the hazardous substances were left unattended for prolonged periods, which could be accessed by residents.
Mr Johnson’s death led to Palms Row Healthcare being served with three Improvement Notices by the Health and Safety Executive along with the prosecution.
Palms Row Healthcare Ltd was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay costs of £14,4720.02 after admitting breaching Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
An HSE Inspector said:“Mr Johnson’s death was a terribly tragic one, particularly as it could have been easily avoided by simply locking away the chemicals.”
“There was no excuse for Palms Row Healthcare’s failure to protect the vulnerable people in its care. It is imperative that care home owners consider the risks to people they are looking after and manage those risks to prevent incidents like this.”
Mr Johnson’s brother, Ray, who was in court with his daughter, Liz Smith, said: “The loss of Derek was a huge shock to the family, particularly to me as his brother. Derek was placed in a nursing home for his own safety and yet my very act of trying to keep him safe resulted in his death. I cannot reconcile this feeling and battle with it daily. I am still trying to come to terms with what I see as the untimely death of my big brother.”
“We hope that lessons will be learned from what happened to Derek so that other families do not have to suffer the same heartache and loss that we are still suffering.”