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Housing association ordered to pay £135,000 after fatal scalding

A social landlord located in Birmingham has been fined £100,000 after a man was scalded in a bath at a hostel. The victim died in hospital from his injuries.

The Recorder of Birmingham, Judge William Davis QC, found there had been a level of shortcomings that would have justified a higher fine of £300,000 if the Midland Heart had been a for-profit organization.

At a hearing held on October the 5th, the Birmingham Crown Court heard that the victim, Anthony Ironmonger, 75 years, died due to burns suffered in a bath at the city’s Summer Hill House hostel. Mr. Ironmonger had gone to the hostel’s communal bath area and locked the door. He ran the hot tap, which dispensed water at a temperature of 60-65C. Mr. Irongmonger’s back, shoulders, buttocks, upper thighs and both feet were scalded after coming into contact with the water. A total of 40 per cent of his total body area was burned in the incident. Ironmonger passed away in hospital on December the 17th. The official cause of death was multi-organ failure; this was caused by his injuries.

The incident was the second one involving a person being scalded in a bath at a property owned by the non-profit organisation. Another victim, Kevin Clarke, sustained burns at the Snow Hill hostel on the 24th August 2008. Aged 43 years at the time of the incident, he was treated at hospital and discharged.

Birmingham City Council brought the prosecution. Midland Heart is the largest housing group in the Midlands. The organisation admitted to two breaches of s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 for failing to ensure the water-outlet temperature had been properly controlled to avoid scalding.

A fine of £80,000 was levied against the housing association in the case of Mr. Ironmonger. An additional fine of £20,000 was ordered in the case of Mr. Clarke. The housing association was also ordered to pay an additional £35,000 in agreed costs.

Midland Heart stated to the court that it accepted its failings in this matter and it apologised to the two victims’ families. It also said that it had invested considerable amounts of money to deal with the defects in its hostels to lower the risk of scalding injuries, including a thermostatic mixer valve on the baths being used in its housing stock.

The chair of the public protection committee at Birmingham Council, Councillor Neil Eustace stated: “These incidents were completely avoidable and we want to ensure this doesn’t happen again by working with all residential homes and hostels to make sure they have a thermostatic-control system in place.”