HSE Fine Care Company Where Staff Were Assaulted

A social care organisation has been fined for exposing workers to the risk of violence and aggression.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) launched an investigation at Dimensions (UK) Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation that provides support services for people with learning disabilities, after a support worker was kicked in the eye by a client on 31 December 2009.

The investigation revealed that between March 2009 and December 2010 Dimensions (UK) Ltd did not have adequate processes in place to control the risk of care workers being exposed to violence and aggression from this particular client, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Newcastle Magistrates' Court heard that during the period of time in question, the client posed an ongoing risk of violence and aggression, resulting in a number of occasions where staff were injured.

Dimensions (UK) Ltd was fined a total of £14,000 and ordered to pay £30,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, in relation to their employees and agency workers.

Speaking after the sentencing, HSE Inspector Carol Forster, said:

"The risk of violence and aggression from clients with challenging behaviour is common in the social care sector. Workers can suffer not only physical injury but also psychological effects such as stress and anxiety, which can also affect their family and social life.

"Social care organisations have a duty to ensure that proper management systems are in place to control the risk of violence and aggression to the lowest level possible.

"In this case, Dimensions should have identified the triggers that would lead to this client displaying aggressive behaviour and measures should have been put in place to avoid them. They should also have ensured that staff understood the activities and environments appropriate for this client, to reduce the risk of violent behaviour being triggered. Finally, they should have acted on incidents and near misses which indicated an escalating risk."

According to HSE figures in 2010/11, there were 2,348 injuries to workers in non-residential social care settings. Lack of effective management systems including a lack of training has been cited in the past as reasons why care staff are so vulnerable to physical abuse from their clients.

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