Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

March 30, 2015

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Care home owner sentenced after elderly resident dies falling from hoist

A healthcare firm and its director have been ordered to pay more than £335,000 in fines and costs after a 100-year-old resident died from injuries she sustained in a fall from a hoist at Meppershall Care Home, Meppershall.

Following the fatal fall, inspectors discovered that another resident had fallen whilst being moved from her wheelchair to her armchair prior to this incident, breaking her tibia and fibula. This has not been reported to the HSE. The care home has now closed.

In the more recent incident in August 2010, two carers were moving May Ward, who previously lived in Harlington, Bedfordshire, between a chair and a bed using a hoist. As she was being moved she fell suffering multiple fractures when she hit the floor, including her skull, hip and knee, and died at Lister hospital in Stevenage the following day as a result of her injuries.

The owners of the nursing home, GA Projects Limited, and its director, Mohammed Zarook, were both sentenced on 27 March after an investigation by the HSE established that her death could have been prevented had a better system for handling and moving residents, supported by appropriate staff training, been in place.

HSE established that her two carers had been employed by GA Projects for less than a year at the time of the incident. The sling used to move Mrs Ward was very complicated to fit correctly and the carers were given no training in how to safely use the sling. The sling was also not the one recommended by Central Bedfordshire Council as being suitable for Mrs Ward’s medical conditions. Mrs Ward was therefore not securely positioned within the sling and when she moved herself forwards, she fell out, hitting the floor.

The court was told that there was a history of serious safety breaches at Meppershall. HSE served five Improvement Notices between October and December 2010 relating to deficiencies in resident handling, risk assessment, other risks to residents and a lack of competent health and safety advice.

At the time of May Ward’s death, GA Projects Limited owned three care homes including the one at Meppershall.  Despite having no knowledge or experience of running care homes, Mr Zarook proceeded to take vulnerable residents into his three care homes. However, there was no evidence that he had taken steps to fulfil his health and safety obligations through the provision of training, and the management of the risks most commonly associated with the care industry, including resident handling.

In addition, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had carried out inspections at the home on several occasions prior to Mrs Ward’s death that resulted in ‘poor’ or ‘adequate’ ratings. Meppershall Care Home was closed in July 2013 following concerns raised by CQC during a further inspection.

GA Projects Ltd, of Crompton Road, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Sections 3(1) and 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £36,992.24.

Mohammed Zarook, of Sauncey Wood, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He was fined £150,000 and ordered to pay costs of £100,000.

Speaking after the hearing HSE Inspector Emma Page, said: “Mrs Ward’s death was a wholly preventable tragedy caused by unacceptable management failings on the part of GA Projects Ltd and Mr Zarook. They put vulnerable residents at the care home at unnecessary risk.

“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, and that they work to adequately assess and mitigate all possible risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.

“Moving and handling is a particularly important issue in the healthcare sector and every year vulnerable people suffer injuries caused by poor moving and handling practice.”

For guidance and information on moving and handling in health and social care, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/healthservices/moving-handling.htm.

Approaches to managing the risks associated Musculoskeletal disorders

In this episode of the Safety & Health Podcast, we hear from Matt Birtles, Principal Ergonomics Consultant at HSE’s Science and Research Centre, about the different approaches to managing the risks associated with Musculoskeletal disorders.

Matt, an ergonomics and human factors expert, shares his thoughts on why MSDs are important, the various prevalent rates across the UK, what you can do within your own organisation and the Risk Management process surrounding MSD’s.

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