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October 14, 2011

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Housing association to pay £135,000 over scalding death

A Birmingham-based social landlord has been fined £100,000 after a man was severely scalded in a bath at a hostel, and later died in hospital from his injuries.

Judge William Davis QC, the Recorder of Birmingham, said there had been significant shortcomings, which would have justified a fine of £300,000 if the organisation, Midland Heart, had been profit-making.

Birmingham Crown Court was told on 5 October that Anthony Ironmonger, 75, died after suffering burns in a bath at the city’s Summer Hill House hostel. On 6 December 2007, Mr Ironmonger had gone into the communal bath area, locked the door and run the hot tap, the water from which was at a temperature of between 60 and 65OC. He sustained burns to 40 per cent of his total body surface area and had scalds down his back, shoulders, buttocks, upper thighs and both feet. He died in hospital on 17 December from multi-organ failure, complicated by his injuries.

Mr Ironmonger was the second person to have been scalded in a bath at a property operated by Midland Heart. Kevin Clarke, aged 43 at the time, sustained burns at the Snow Hill hostel on 24 August 2008, but was discharged from hospital after treatment.

Midland Heart, the largest housing group in the Midlands, admitted two breaches of s3(1) of the HSWA 1974 for failing to ensure the water-outlet temperature had been properly controlled to avoid scalding, in a prosecution brought by Birmingham City Council.

The housing association was fined £80,000 in relation to the case of Mr Ironmonger and £20,000 in relation to Mr Clarke. It was also ordered to pay £35,000 agreed costs.

In mitigation, Midland Heart said it accepted its failings and sincerely apologised to the families of Mr Ironmonger and Mr Clarke. It said it had spent a considerable amount of money to remedy the defects in its hostels to minimise the risk of scalding accidents, and had installed thermostatic mixer valves on the baths in its housing stock.

Councillor Neil Eustace, chair of the public protection committee at Birmingham Council, commented: “These incidents were completely avoidable and we want to ensure this doesn’t happen again by working with all residential homes and hostels to make sure they have a thermostatic-control system in place.”

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