£100,000 Fine for Health & Safety at Work Breach

Wolverhampton Crown Court recently heard how incorrectly adjusted sling loop fittings lead to the fall and eventual death of a 91 year-old great-grandmother: Ms Irene Evans. Ms Evans fell from the hoist in January 2007 whilst two carers were attempting to move her from her bed to a chair. During the manoeuvre, one carer was behind the mast of the hoist whilst the other turned to pick up the victim’s slippers. A safety pommel on the sling which had not been fastened into place may have prevented the fall.

Ms Evans suffered bruising and a five inch gash on her scalp. She died ten days after the incident having failed to recover in hospital.

The failings in the correct use of equipment were revealed following a HSE investigation. The Court went on to hear how staff at the home had received no training, information or instruction on the use of the specific sling, its loop fixings or the pommel. Neither the risk assessment nor the care plan which had been completed for Ms Evans’ care made mention of the sling loop fixings and no safer working procedure had been provided for the sling.

In a statement, Amy Kalay, HSE Inspector said, ‘Mrs Evans’ death was a wholly preventable tragedy caused by unacceptable management failings... Managers of the nursing home failed to make adequate assessment of the manual handling requirements for this elderly lady who was in their care. In particular, they did not give the carers sufficient information, instruction or training to use the sling correctly.’

She went on: ‘Working in a care home is a specialised job, which involves dealing with vulnerable people. Care homes must ensure that they have the correct training in place for all their employees.’

After the hearing Ms Evans’ daughters, speaking in a joint statement thanked the Health & Safety Executive for its support and said, ‘Coming to terms with the senseless way Mum died and the continuous reminders have made what happened very difficult. We seem to be forever reliving the tragic circumstances surrounding Mum’s death.’

The care home group company responsible pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, 1974 which states that, ‘It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.’

The company was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay an additional £50,000 in costs.

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