Care homes can avoid litigation – and serious accidents – if they put robust inspection processes in place
Owners of care homes must be absolutely certain that they are doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of residents. This includes having robust checking and recording processes in place and making sure that all equipment is always fit for purpose.
That's the advice from health and safety advisor Bibby Consulting & Support following the death of a 79-year-old man with dementia who fell 4m out of a window at Plas Rhosnesi Nursing Home in Wrexham and died.
The care home owner was fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £43,287 in costs after it was revealed that Stanley Tilston had told his son he knew how to get past the window restrictor chain and was planning on escaping through the window.
The staff were alerted and the window locked. But a maintenance worker who repaired the broken restrictor left the window open to air the room and Mr Tilston broke the chain again, climbed out of the window and fell, suffering fatal head injuries. The Health & Safety Executive – which had previously issued an improvement order about the window chains – said the accident was "entirely avoidable", not least because Mr Tilston could have been moved to a vacant room on the ground floor for his own safety.
HSE guidance specifically relating to falls from windows for residents of care homes states that a risk assessment should consider the needs of the person using the care service and look carefully at "all foreseeable situations".
Bibby Consulting & Support's Managing Director Michael Slade said: "Anyone involved in the care of vulnerable people has a responsibility to ensure that alongside their duty to facilitate individual independence of service users, any risks to their health and safety are adequately controlled.
"Ticking boxes is not enough – a service user with specific needs should have regular checks made on them and their accommodation. Yes, some people's behaviour may be unpredictable but care home owners have a duty to reduce the risk of any hazards."
Slade said Bibby's care home specialists carry out various routine housekeeping and maintenance checks and give all areas a risk rating. The checks cover fire extinguishers, fire exit routes, window restrictors, first aid equipment, rooms, bunks and ladders.
He added: "The most effective way of making sure that procedures are followed to the letter is to have a strict recording regime where staff log every inspection and outcome. Our care home customers have access to a bespoke monitoring system with online document templates that make recording straightforward. We also advise clients on what they need to do to meet their health and safety obligations."
Slade concluded: "Accidents that result in death are tragic but in most cases avoidable. Care home providers need to make sure they are doing everything in their power to ensure the safety of residents – and that includes checking every piece of equipment on a regular basis. That way, they can not only avoid serious accidents but they can also protect themselves against extremely costly litigation."
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About Bibby Consulting & Support
Bibby Consulting & Support, formerly mhl support, has earned the reputation of being one of the UK’s leading providers of compliance management services. We enable employers and senior managers to attain and maintain compliance within the demanding, complex and constantly evolving fields of Employment Law, Health and Safety and Environmental legislation.
Bibby Consulting & Support is part of the Bibby Line Group, a family run business with a distinguished 200-year heritage, encompassing financial services, retailing, logistics, shipping, marine and offshore services.www.bibbycas.com