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£1.5m fine and suspended jail sentence follow care home fall

Care home operator Embrace All has been fined £1.5m after an elderly resident died following a fall down a set of steps. The care home manager landed a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years. 

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George Chicken, a 76-year-old resident of the Rose Court Lodge care home in Sutton Road, Mansfield died from severe head injuries days after falling down an unlit internal concrete fire escape in November 2012.

At an earlier hearing in July, the court heard that Mr Chicken, who was intermittently confused and unsteady on his feet, had previously opened fire escape doors to exit the home.

Officers from Mansfield District Council found that Embrace All had no risk assessment for stairway safety, which meant there were no controls to stop Mr Chicken wandering through an unsecured fire door into an unlit stairwell which had no handrail.  

Embrace All is part of the Embrace Group, formerly European Care & Lifestyles (UK), which provides residential care and home support to elderly people and adults and children with disabilities, and operates more than 60 care homes. It was charged with failing to protect residents at Rose Court Lodge contrary to s 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. The home’s manager Amanda Dean was charged with failing to take care of others affected by her work, contrary to s 7(1) of the act.

Both defendants denied their guilt until four days into the July trial when they pleaded guilty to the charges.

Defence counsel argued that Embrace All was a standalone company. Judge Stuart Rafferty did not accept the argument but decided not to assess the size of the defendant based on the whole Embrace Group’s turnover. He found that both defendants’ culpability was high, with a high risk of serious injury or death. He restricted credit for the guilty pleas, though he did remark that witnesses were saved the trauma of giving evidence.

Embrace All was fined £1.5m and Dean was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years.

The company was also ordered to pay £200,000 and Dean £20,000 towards prosecution costs.

Shortly after Mr Chicken’s fall, the company restricted access to fire doors by fitting keypads. 

 

 

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Louis Wustemann is former editor, IOSH Magazine. He was previously editor of Health and Safety at Work magazine and Environment in Business. He has written, edited and consulted on health and safety, environmental and employment matters for more than 25 years.

Comments

  • Are the keypads linked to the

    Permalink Submitted by DON PLEASANTS on 5 October 2016 - 02:47 pm

    Are the keypads linked to the fire alarm,i.e IF the fire alarm sounds the keypads automatically unlocks itself.If not it is the same as padlocking a fire exit.

    reply
  • It's a sad story and this

    Permalink Submitted by TA on 6 October 2016 - 01:05 pm

    It's a sad story and this accident could have been prevented. A risk assessment is key to identifying hazards and decide who could be harmed and how. This would not have happened if a risk assessment was in place and if Mr Chicken was supervised.

    reply
  • This is a tragic incident.

    Permalink Submitted by Kevin Boreham on 20 October 2017 - 10:39 am

    This is a tragic incident. The comments above are perfectly valid and a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk could have prevented this. There are however, some fundamental issues in the picture which should also have been picked up and acted upon.
    Has the lighting issue been addressed? the article is not very clear on this. A fall could still occur due to poor lighting.
    Where is the hand rail? Stairs of this length must have a handrail fitted so people can steady themselves; even more so if the residents are known to have stability issues.
    Why have the edges of the stair treads not been highlighted to provide definition between each step? Those with visual acuity issues may find that the steps blend in to one another.

    Key pads on the doors have prevented access but there may be a time when the route has to be used, therefore all issues need to be addressed.

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