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January 20, 2022

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In Court

BUPA ordered to pay over £1m for fire safety failings following death of care home resident

A care home business, run by private health care provider BUPA, has been fined £1.04m after a resident died in a fire while smoking at one of its care homes.

London Fire BrigadeBUPA Care Services (ANS) Ltd was fined £937,500 for fire safety failings and ordered to pay £104,000 prosecution costs at Southwark Crown Court on 5 January 2021.

The London Fire Brigade brought the prosecution against BUPA under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order after it was called to the blaze at the Manley Court care home in Brockley in March 2016.

Cedric Skyers, a 69-year-old wheelchair user and former resident of the home, died in a fire whilst smoking un-supervised in a shelter in the garden of the premises. A care assistant saw the fire from a first-floor window and called 999 before staff attempted to put the fire out, but Mr Sykes sadly died from his injuries.

A subsequent investigation found that although a smoking risk assessment had been carried out for Mr Skyers, it did not assess his use of emollient creams, which can be flammable if allowed to build up on skin, clothes or bedding.

Apparent burn marks indicating previous incidents were also found on Mr Skyers’ clothing after his death, something care home staff claimed they had been unaware of. They said if they had known, they would have ensured more regular checks were made when he was smoking.

The Brigade brought the case as there had been a failure to comply with fire safety duties which placed Mr Skyers and other residents at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire.

BUPA pleaded guilty to contravening Article 11 (1) which relates to the management of fire safety measures.

Specifically, it accepted that it had failed to:

  • Ensure staff understood the risks from the use of emollient creams
  • Warn residents using paraffin-based products not to smoke, or require precautions to be taken such as the use of smock or apron
  • Instruct staff not to leave a resident using paraffin-based products smoking unsupervised
  • Carry out an individual smoking risk assessment of the residents as normal with the control measures in place.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Paul Jennings, said: “This case is an absolutely tragic example of what the devastating consequences of failure to comply with fire safety regulations can be.

“If there can be anything constructive to come from this, we hope that it will be that anyone who has a legal responsibility for fire safety in a building, whether it’s a landlord, a property manager, care home provider or any other setting, take notes and makes sure they are complying with the law.”

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